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Shabana Basij-Rasikh is the co-founder and president of the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA), a nonprofit dedicated to providing Afghan girls a rigorous education that promotes critical thinking, a sense of purpose, and respect for self and others.
Shabana was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan. Under the Taliban, she dressed as a boy to escort her older sister to a secret school, with dire consequences if they were caught.
She attended a high school in America under the YES exchange program, and graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont graduating magna cum laude in International Studies and Women & Gender Studies in 2011 .
During college, she founded HELA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering Afghan women through education. She also raised funds through foundations and public talks across the US to build a high school for girls in her ancestral village, and to build wells on the outskirts of Kabul to give communities access to clean drinking water.
Upon graduating, Shabana returned to Kabul to establish SOLA as Afghanistan’s first boarding school for girls. SOLA is paving the way by providing quality education to an underserved and underrepresented population, helping graduates enter universities worldwide.
Not only is the school unique, but SOLA’s students are as well. The students range from ages 11-19 and represent all major ethnic groups and religious sects. SOLA’s graduates have gone on to attend 45 different schools and colleges in 6 countries.