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Like many students in Idaho, Manny Garcia wasn’t sure if college was for him. He remembers being in high school and feeling confused, with a lot of questions about the future — unsure if he would be able to achieve everything he dreamed of.

He was at a crossroads: enter the workforce now and try to make a go of it or apply to college, hopefully be admitted, find a way to pay for it, and work as hard as he could to graduate.

He stressed about his options while finishing up his time at Canyon Ridge High School. As the clock counted down to graduation, Manny heard about OELA, or Organización de Estudiantes Latino-Americanos. OELA is a Boise State student-run group that puts on a yearly event called Dream for Tomorrow (DFT for short).

“DFT is a two-day event (being held this year on November 6 and 7). The aim is to bring Latinx students from neighboring locations in Idaho and Oregon and help them learn about the college admissions process, scholarships, and campus life. Students will also have the opportunity to build connections with faculty, staff, and Boise State students,” Manny explained as he thought back on his memories of the event.

Now, he’s happy to say that he decided to give DFT a shot and see what it was all about.

“I remember attending the event and being so inspired by all the mentors who told me about overcoming struggles, discovering themselves at Boise State, and also being able to thrive in the classroom. Hearing that as a 17 year old truly helped light the flame that helped me get to where I am today.”

Fast forward to fall 2021, and Manny is a mentor with OELA. He was so inspired by the DFT event and the work that OELA does that after he enrolled at Boise State, he approached the group at an involvement fair two years ago and asked to volunteer for DFT.

He began volunteering his time for DFT in fall of 2019, came back in 2020 to do it again, and now serves as OELA’s DFT high school student recruiter and coordinator.

Manny works this position in addition to double majoring in business administration and entrepreneurship, with a minor in nonprofit management. He is currently a senior, finishing up his degree and feels that aside from everything he’s learning from his degree, his experience with OELA has taught him a ton of real world experience that he can apply to his career.

“Opportunities like working with OELA to help plan out an event like this have helped me understand the beginning and end process of planning major events. There was a lot that went into this and I know I am better prepared going forward in understanding the logistics of event planning. It’s definitely useful to have this kind of hands-on experience.”

Manny feels it was that very first event, and all the people involved with it, which gave him the confidence to pursue higher education and give attention to his career development. But it’s not only career-focused skills that OELA helps students develop, it’s also personal confidence, self-worth, and belief that students can make things happen for themselves.

“The impact it left on me was vital in my mindset development and belief in myself to reach the places I am at today. At the time, I had many questions that often left me thinking it wasn’t possible to be in college. Without DFT, I don’t know if I would be where I am today.”

Although balancing his time with OELA and classwork isn’t easy, inspiring others is what makes it all worth it to Manny.

“Sharing my story, building a connection, and inspiring each one of them to go and achieve whatever they set their mind to makes all worth it. I know how impactful this can be on someone as I once was in their shoes and understand how important it is to have inspiration from someone like that who has a common cultural background.”

If there’s one thing we believe in here at Boise State, it’s community. Having somewhere to belong and feel welcome and useful builds meaningful bonds between people that will last a lifetime. Boise State has deep roots with campus culture and OELA is giving students that safe space to celebrate who they are.

“OELA, for me, has meant more than being involved with on-campus organizations. It’s a space for me to express my own culture and feel encouraged to do so. I have been able to express myself in ways that truly make me feel comfortable, at a university that supports cultural expression.”

For those not sure if you should join a club, or get involved with OELA specifically, Manny has a few words of wisdom for you.

“Getting involved in any way will truly make your college experience so much better. I’ve had a chance to meet so many incredible students and staff that have left a meaningful impact on my life. It’s not always easy to have confidence in yourself, to want to get involved. But being present and willing to learn has been a vital skill I have used and plan to continue to use even after college. I’m so thankful for the opportunities Boise State has given me and when talking to my peers, getting involved is one of the best pieces of advice I can offer.”

OELA is dedicated to promoting cultural awareness around the Boise State campus and increasing higher education opportunities within the Latinx student population.

“Regardless if you are Latinx or not they are very inclusive about allowing anyone to join and be a part of the amazing things they do.”

College students at Boise State who are interested in mentoring at Dream for Tomorrow can participate by being mentors to 5—6 high school students, help guide them through the event, and also share their input on their experiences as a Latinx student.

As for Manny, he’s leaving college by passing the torch on to his cousin, who he hopes will be equally impacted by her experience with OELA and DFT.

“This being my last DFT event, I wanted to make sure my own relatives were there. As my younger cousin begins her journey to college next year, I have asked her to attend this event in hopes that she is able to have an experience that will inspire her to reach her own goals in life.”

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  • Trisha Miller