H3O Group closing the income gap in STEM education

A U.S. Air Force veteran, Hozell Odom III understands the importance of serving and giving back to his community for the greater good.

With his military career now far behind him, Odom is using the leadership skills, training, and education he acquired throughout his career to offer opportunities to the next generation of leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

As the director and co-founder of the Georgia nonprofit The H3O Group, Odom provides educational and professional development services to students and families in underserved communities. The organization’s services encompass a range of offerings, from STEM initiatives and SAT/ACT preparatory boot camps to financial literacy seminars.

Hozell Odom, third from from left, at the Museum of Aviation Foundation.

These services are specifically directed toward underserved, low-income students in Title I schools in middle Georgia’s Houston, Macon, Peach, and Bibb counties, said Odom, who started The H3O Group with his wife Barbara in July 2021.

“We handle all the logistics with educational institutions, provide the necessary funding, and ensure students and parents are equipped to take advantage of our valuable resources free of charge,” he said.

Since opening its doors, the nonprofit has established partnerships with educational institutions, fellow nonprofits, and small businesses both within and outside middle Georgia that share The H3O Group’s vision. Presently, the organization’s partners include the Museum of Aviation Foundation, the National Stem Academy (NSA), the Georgia Technical Student Association (GATSA), Huntington Middle School, Creative Financial Group, and UWorld, Inc., an exam preparation company serving high school and college students.

“For our vision to succeed, we must address the educational and professional development gaps in underprivileged communities,” Odom said. “While our programs primarily support middle Georgia communities, our scope is not confined to these areas due to the availability of virtual learning.”

“Our programs contribute to reducing critical gaps in education and self-development by connecting educational institutions with deserving students. These students typically would not have access to these services due to financial constraints or a lack of awareness about the available opportunities. We undertake all of this work for free to bridge the educational gap.”

STEM education lays the foundation for students to pursue college degrees in areas such as computer and information sciences, mathematics and statistics, life sciences, agriculture and environmental sciences, engineering and architecture, as well as health-related fields. Research has shown that students in impoverished school systems have limited access to STEM education, resulting in an underrepresentation of minorities in the STEM workforce.

The H3O Group is committed to altering these statistics within the realm of STEM education, Odom said.

“Our primary demand for service has been in STEM,” said Odom, who noted that most of The H3O Group’s STEM students come from Huntington Middle School in Houston County. “We have achieved significant success in offering undervalued, disadvantaged students various career and educational opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable to them.”

The H3O Group’s STEM initiative, known as the Starship program, has sponsored over 90 students at STEM events hosted by the NSA and GATSA at both national and state conferences. These students engage with STEM educators in NSA Mission Quest courses, STEM labs, STEM summer camps, and TSA events and competitions.

“Following their completion of these STEM experiences, students exhibit renewed motivation and eagerness to further explore STEM and other academic programs,” Odom said. “This paves the way for discussions about their interests, academic enjoyment, and career choices between them and their teachers. Such opportunities would be significantly harder to attain without these STEM experiences.”

Additionally, The H3O Group is dedicated to preparing students for college and financial planning as they transition into adulthood.

“We provide students in Title I schools access to a robust online educational platform designed to prepare them for their SAT or ACT college entrance exams,” Odom said. “This valuable resource is made available free of charge through the generous support of charitable contributions and our partnership with UWorld, Inc.”

“Through a collaboration with Creative Financial Group Inc. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, we offer our students a virtual or in-person introduction to essential financial planning. This seminar provides a customized selection of money management strategies tailored to the needs of our students and young adults aged 16 and above.”

As a two-year-old organization, the H3O Group faces its share of challenges. Securing the funding needed to sustain programs and services and meeting the growing demand for STEM events are the organization’s foremost hurdles, Odom said.

“We are addressing this shortfall by constantly seeking sponsors, local grant opportunities, charitable donors, and contributions from the executive board and board of directors,” he said.

Increasing the demand for the H3O Group’s SAT/ACT preparatory program has also posed challenges, Odom said.

“During and following the COVID pandemic, the demand for our SAT/ACT preparatory program dwindled due to changes in university admission requirements,” he said. “Now that the pandemic has passed and university admission requirements are starting to shift once more, we anticipate an increase in demand for the program.”

The H3O Group also aims to bolster interest in its financial literacy seminar.

“Financial literacy represents a valuable and much-needed resource for our communities,” Odom said. “Presently, the requests for this service need to better reflect the anticipated demand. Through enhanced marketing and networking, we have full confidence that this service, along with our college preparation program, will match or even surpass the success of our Starship program in STEM.”

Notwithstanding these challenges, the H3O Group is committed to creating more opportunities and services that align with students’ needs, Odom said. The organization’s goal is to increase student participation across all its programs by 50 percent over the next four years, he said.

“We are continuously building our local brand presence and extending our reach beyond Georgia,” he said. “As demand for our programs grows and funding increases, we aspire to expand to other states and tap into their resources and student base, broadening our horizons beyond a single location.”

How to support The H3O Group, Inc.

Reach out to a member of The H3O Group’s team to discuss programs and services and collaboration opportunities. To schedule a meeting via phone, Zoom, or in-person, email h3o@h3ogroup.org or call 478-550-6565.

Connect with The H3O Group on Facebook or visit their website at h3ogroup.org to stay updated on the services and programs they offer.