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To champion dreams: TRIO Upward Bound bolsters students’ college aspirations

By Carrie Quinney

On a late summer afternoon at Caldwell High School, Josh Engler, an educational specialist with the TRIO Upward Bound program, helped students fill out college applications.

“I see an incredible amount of promise in the students I work with at Caldwell High School,” Engler said. “When you provide opportunities, the students I work with take full advantage and they’re incredibly hard-working, driven and aspire to do special things.”

Josh Engler posing in classroom with students behind him.

TRIO Upward Bound, a federally funded program that seeks to increase the number of first-generation and low-income students who complete college, is housed at Boise State in the College of Education’s Center for Multicultural Educational Opportunities. Educational specialists like Engler work in schools to support these students with their studies, test preparation, college selection, scholarships and applications.

Idaho has one of the fastest-growing first-generation college student populations in the country. In fall 2023, more than a quarter of Boise State’s incoming, first-time, degree-seeking students identified as first-generation.

TRIO specialists select students for Upward Bound not only for their background, but for their determination to engage and succeed.

With Engler’s support, Caldwell High Upward Bound students built community by planning an annual young women in leadership conference and forming a STEAM club.

In June 2022, Engler took 10 students to the Jurassic World “Rule Your Future STEAM Symposium” at Universal Studios Hollywood, where they attended a career fair and conference with the film’s director and actors.

In summer 2023, one of Engler’s students, Nick Mendez, landed an internship with NASA.

Engler’s dedication to his students has earned him several awards over his 15 years as an educational specialist, including the city of Caldwell’s Community Hero Award in April 2023.

Hector Ramirez, a senior in Engler’s class, plans to study materials science and is considering Boise State’s College of Engineering.

“The program has helped me grow and learn more about myself,” Ramirez said. “It’s helped me open up through the support of everyone in the program.”

A milestone for Boise State and the College of Education

2023 marked the 30th anniversary of the doctoral program in education, the university’s first doctoral offering. Robert Barr, then-dean of the college, was instrumental in designing the program. Its first group of students graduated in 1997.