Aria Mustary.
Aria Mustary.

Babson Scholar Founds Mentorship Program for Girls in Bangladesh

Winter 2021 | National

Babson College Posse Scholar Aria Mustary is the founder of the Mai Soli Foundation, a nonprofit working to level the playing field for young girls in developing countries.

Mai Soli’s mentorship model aims to reduce child marriage by investing in young women’s creativity and entrepreneurial potential. Aria launched the program in 2020 in Bangladesh, choosing to focus its efforts on the country where her parents grew up.

In fact, Aria drew her primary inspiration for the initiative from own mother, who built a thriving business in New York after ending the relationship she was married into as a teenager; Aria was a teenager herself when her parents divorced.

“After that, it really felt like we got our lives back,” Aria says, acknowledging she had more freedom for school and extracurricular activities once her father left the household.

“With all that we've made it through, we have a different level of understanding for each other. Posse taught me to lead with empathy.”

With a budding interest in humanitarian initiatives, Aria became the founder of her high school’s first UNICEF chapter. She received multiple nominations for the Posse Scholarship—including from an English teacher, a guidance counselor and the writing program 826 NYC—and was selected as a Babson College Posse Scholar.

“I started crying,” Aria says, recalling the day she heard the news from Posse. “Then my mom came home and she started crying. It was such an overwhelming, incredible moment.”

Babson proved academically challenging, but her fellow Posse Scholars and Posse mentor, Babson Professor Vikki Rodgers, were a source of support.

“I’ve never felt like I was alone,” Aria says of her Posse experience at Babson. “With all that we’ve made it through, we have a different level of understanding for each other. Posse taught me to lead with empathy.”

Aria was inspired to channel that empathy into Mai Soli during a difficult sophomore year, finding renewed motivation by looking outwards.

“I thought, what I want to do is change one, or two, or 10, or 100 lives, for girls on that side of the world,” she says. “Maybe my foundation can believe in them like Posse believed in me.”

Mai Soli is currently serving 200 girls in Bangladesh with a pilot program curriculum that centers on entrepreneurship, financial literacy, leadership and empowerment.

“Maybe my foundation can believe in them like Posse believed in me.”

“We match 10 girls—you can see how it’s inspired by Posse—and a mentor,” Aria says. “They talk about things like budgeting, how to open your first bank account and what micro-financing is. It’s a holistic approach.”

With her Babson graduation approaching this spring, Aria knows she wants to pursue career opportunities with a focus on social impact. Down the line, she hopes to make Mai Soli her full-time job.

“I want to take Mai Soli to other developing countries around the world,” she says. “We can reach young girls who do not have any resources to help themselves. We can break the cycle.”