Starfish Award

posted Sep 18, 2011, 4:40 AM by Terry Dougherty   [ updated Feb 25, 2015, 2:59 PM ]

First Starfish Award to

SOLA, School of Leadership, Afghanistan, &

SOLA founder, Ted Achilles

Sustainable solutions to Afghanistan’s often seemingly insoluble needs must come from educated Afghans, especially Afghan women, and cannot be imposed from the outside.                    — Ted Achilles


SOLA taught me that I can do anything; most importantly to be loved and to love.

                                                                                                                                   — Sana, SOLA student

Ted Achilles standing with Angela who is now studying at Richmond University in Virginia

Friends of Afghanistan presented the Starfish Award at the FoA reunion in Washington, D.C., to Ted Achilles, founder and director of SOLA, School of Leadership AfghanistanThis award is given to the person who truly “makes a difference” in an individual’s life. Through SOLA's support for gender equal educational programs and scholarships for girls, SOLA is helping to build and sustain the next generation of female Afghan leaders.

Friends of Afghanistan is a proud and tangible supporter for SOLA in its efforts to promote equitable educational opportunity in Afghanistan. SOLA and Friends of Afghanistan have worked together to help launch the Afghan Women's Writing Project by purchasing computers and setting up an email exchange between students and AWWP mentors. Together we helped select and support children under Solace for the Children's medical assistance program for war injured children. We continue to focus on developing ESL classes for students preparing to enter international high schools and higher educational opportunities.

We expect this partnership to grow in the years ahead—and SOLA students to return to run the program themselves. In fact, one already has: Shabana became SOLA’s new head of school on her return to Kabul after graduating from Middlebury College in Vermont in 2011.

SOLA students follow the maxim, SOLA helps those who help themselves. Upper-level students serve as teachers and mentors to new students and work as translators and advocates for Solace students. They have learned American sign language in order to teach a hearing-impaired student. They participate actively in the Afghan Women's Writing Project to learn to write effectively in English. They perform office jobs at SOLA to learn proper business procedures and communications.

Every single example is in itself an example of leadership — one's involvement in helping others. What better definition of leadership is there than that?                                                                   — Ted Achilles

SOLA is no more than the antithesis of an institution. We do what we do not for contracts, but because each and every SOLA student is a person for whom we care—and care deeply—and for whom we’ll go to great lengths to help achieve her personal objectives. Why? Because we can!                  — Ted Achilles

Louise Pascale, PhD (center with flowers) and Ted Achilles, amid students in front of Ted's beloved, antique Russian Jeep (may it rest in peace), November 2009. Female SOLA students from left to right: 

Fatemeh, now at Mary Washington University — Virginia

Khadija, now at the American School for the Deaf — Connecticut 

Sana, now at Bishop Dwenger High School — Indiana

Meena, now at Russell Sage College — New York

Bibi Fatima, now at United World Colleges — New Mexico


Photo at top of page: Ted with Angela, now at University of Richmond — Virginia

Terry Dougherty,
Sep 18, 2011, 5:02 AM