Alumna works to close the gap for underserved communities in local schools and beyond

Hodan Omar has built a career out of supporting others.

An educational outreach coordinator with St. Cloud Area School District 742, the St. Cloud State University alumna works to connect underserved individuals with the resources they need, whether it’s in school or out in the community.

“My day-to-day job is supporting families, connecting or finding resources that they need out there in the community or within the school district. Just closing that gap, whether it’s for teachers, students, parents,” she said. “I am hoping we will close that educational gap. I’m hoping more families will have the confidence to walk into the school buildings and have someone that looks like them that could support them with whatever they need.”

Hodan Omar teaching in a St. Cloud area classroomOmar initially was planning to be an addiction counselor, and earned her bachelor’s in community psychology from SCSU in 2021. She had planned to go back to school for her counseling license, and at the time was working for District 742 as a bilingual communication support specialist interpreting for Somali families.

“There was that hunger for education — just looking across communities, that they needed extra support,” she said. “There are teachers there, of course, but someone else in between that they can relate to when they need support, and that just made me want to continue in the education field.”

When her current position opened up with the district, Omar said the next step was clear.

“After I got into this field, I just knew this was where I needed to be,” she said. “I want to make sure that the St. Cloud community gets that extra support that they need.”

Instead of pursuing her master’s in addiction counseling, Omar earned a Master of Science in educational administration and leadership in December 2023 from SCSU. The choice to continue her education at her alma mater was an easy one.

Portrait of Hodan Omar“I loved the professors, whether they were just an email or phone call away, that they were there to support me,” she said. “And that made me decide that that was where I wanted to go back for my master’s. I wanted to have that support system, and SCSU was the perfect place.”

Another highlight from 2023 for Omar was being honored with the Social Trust Award by the Central Minnesota Community Foundation, which honors the “often un-sung hero of community building: the weaver; an individual who is actively building social trust across the greater St. Cloud community.” Nominees display leadership and inspire action across generations, and are known for their empathy, courage and respect of diverse perspectives. Omar was given $2,500 with the award, which she in turn donated to the Somali Dual Language Immersion Program within the St. Cloud Area School District.

“I think that was a privilege, because knowing that the communities across St. Cloud trust me — whoever nominated me thought I was a person they could trust. That’s one thing that gets me going every day,” Omar said.

She does a considerable amount of work in the community to help refugees assimilate and adapt to their new lives in Minnesota, and started the nonprofit Hooyo Hour — which translates to “hour for the moms” in Somali — in 2018. She hosts it multiple times a year at different schools to build a supportive and educational network that fosters personal growth, parental involvement and community strength, while envisioning a future where mothers are leading advocates and contributors to their families' and communities' success.

“Hooyo Hour aims to bring together mothers across Minnesota to engage in meaningful discussions and activities centered around social-emotional health, educational excellence and community engagement,” she said. “Our mission is to empower these mothers with the knowledge and resources necessary to support their children's growth and navigate community life effectively.”

For Omar, her mission in life is to continue lifting up others in her community.

“My goal is to continue being a voice for the underserved communities, and being someone they can come to for resources for anything they need,” she said. “Being someone that’s mentoring and assisting refugees and helping their journey to adapt to their new life in Minnesota, I’m just grateful for that — that I’m someone they can connect with.”


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