At ARWO Learning Center, located in Portland, Maine, you find faces of the future: ARWO’s young charges, and its founder, Naima Abdirhmon, who immigrated here from Somalia.
Naima’s mother, a successful business owner, has worked with StartSmart for over a decade. Naima attended Portland public schools and then earned a Doctorate of Pharmacy Degree from University of New England. While volunteering at Deering High School, she decided she also wanted to educate young people and help them succeed. And with that, ARWO Learning Center was born.
“It has been a blessing to have a CEI StartSmart business counselor on my team. My business counselor and mentor Tae Chong has been my biggest cheerleader – he is insightful, experienced, and always has my company’s best interests at heart.–Naima Abdirhmon
ARWO opened in April 2015 on Forest Avenue, a hub for immigrant and refugee businesses in the city. In two years, the center has grown to an enrollment of 70 children and 18 employees. ARWO means “prosperous” in Somali—the center’s wish for every child in its care. Naima worked closely with CEI’s StartSmart business development program for immigrants and refugees and the Portland Jobs Alliance to identify, train, and hire numerous staff members, including five new Mainers. They have outgrown their space and are looking for a larger facility to grow to 80 children and 20 employees.