Somalilandsun – The Abaarso School in Somaliland announced on the 1st April that its student, Abdisamad Adan, has been accepted by Harvard University for the academic year beginning in September of 2015. According to the Harvard Crimson, the school received 37,305 applicants and accepted 1,990 students.
Located outside of Hargeisa, The Abaarso School is a non-profit American intermediate and secondary school that nurtures the academic, intellectual and character development of promising Somali boys and girls, so they can effectively and ethically advance their society.
Abaarso is a boarding school with 185 students in grades 7 through 12 and is staffed by young American teachers, who work at volunteer pay because they want to be part of something special. It is the only American school in Somaliland and the Abaarso students are believed to be the first from their country in three decades to gain scholarships to US colleges and universities.
Founded in 2009 by Jonathan Starr, a former financial executive who donated half a million of his own money to open the school, there are now Abaarso graduates studying at MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Oberlin, Grinnell, the University of Rochester, Amherst and Georgetown, among others. The school has taken in approximately $2 million in donations and grants to build the school from the ground up and operate it. The students have now turned that initial investment into nearly $10 million in scholarship money to the United States and other developed nations. There are currently 29 Abaarso students studying in the United States. Mr. Starr served as the school’s headmaster at its inception and continues on in this role today.
Abdisamad Adan, age 20, came to the Abaarso School after receiving one of the top 5 scores in Somaliland on the 8th grade national examination and then was a top scorer on Abaarso’s entry examination. He quickly became one of the top students at the school and due to his clear integrity, was chosen as one of Abaarso’s first two male proctors.
Like the vast majority of Abaarso students, Abdisamad grew up in extremely humble conditions. His parents divorced before he was born and he was raised by his paternal grandmother. He was twelve when he first met his mother. His grandmother could not afford the $900 yearly tuition for the Abaarso School so he was accepted on a scholarship. He convinced his grandmother that a good education was the only way to break the cycle of poverty. He wanted to attend Harvard after visiting the campus in order to set a good example for the younger students that someone from Somaliland could attend the most renowned university in the world.
After 3 years at Abaarso, he studied for one year at the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, NY, with the support of ASSIST (American Secondary Schools for International Students and Teachers). He excelled despite working in his 3rd language and taking Advanced Placement courses.
As a condition of his grant from ASSIST, he returned to Abaarso to work for the school as Executive Assistant directly supporting the Headmaster and Assistant Headmaster with tuition collection, procurement, financial tracking and serving as the American management’s prime liaison with the Somali world. Despite his youth, he has been one of the most effective employees working for the Abaarso School.
The Abaarso School received a grant in December 2014 of $291,000 from American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA), a fund administered by USAID. The grant will be used to expand the school and serve more students with additional classrooms, dorms, computer labs and staff housing.