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It Takes a School : The Extraordinary Story of an American School in the World's #1 Failed State
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A story of David and Goliath proportions, how an American hedge fund manager created a unique school in Somaliland which, against all odds, came to achieve success beyond anyone’s wildest dreamsJonathan Starr, a cutthroat hedge fund manager, is not your traditional do-gooder, and in 2009, when he decided to found Abaarso, a secondary school in Somaliland, the choice came as a surprise, even to him. “Why,” he wondered, “would I turn down a life of relative luxury to relocate to an armed compound in the heart of the world’s #1 failed state?” But with sixty graduates, and hundreds to come, enrolled in American universities, from MIT to Harvard, the question has found its answer.
This is the story of how an abstract vision became a transformative reality, as Starr set out to build a school in a place forgotten by the world. It is the story of a skeptical and clan-based society giving way to trust, as an entire country came to rally behind the success of its children. Along the way, it tells the stories of the nomadic boy who escaped a refugee camp, lived homeless, and went on to carry the school's torch to MIT, the tribal chief’s son who became an All-American runner at Amherst, the inspiring girl who attended Abaarso via a hunger-strike, and more.
Despite dramatic existential risks, broken promises, and death threats, Abaarso is on track for American accreditation and leaves Somaliland with a clear message: its children can compete with anyone in the world. Now Starr’s initial question has a follow up: “If such a success can happen in an unrecognized breakaway region of Somalia, can it not happen anywhere?”