Shortly before she was scheduled to begin graduate studies at the University of New Orleans, Petya Stoyanova Johnson took a trip in July 2005 to visit a distant relative in Boise. The mountains and rivers reminded her of her native Bulgaria, and she fell in love with Idaho.
A month later, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Before long, Stoyanova Johnson enrolled at Boise State University.
“The rest is history,” Stoyanova Johnson says. “Idaho is home now.”
That history includes helping countless students continue their educations after high school. As project director of the Center for Multicultural Educational Opportunities at BSU, Stoyanova Johnson directs a program that helps first-generation and low-income students prepare for college and technical school.
This federal TRIO Educational Talent Search (ETS) program serves students in grades eight through 12 at numerous schools across the Treasure Valley.
The first in her family to get an advanced degree, Stoyanova Johnson has a passion for helping others. Her colleagues say she is outstanding at her job.
“Through her guidance and dedication over the years, many of Petya’s students are now college graduates, having fulfilled their educational dream of attaining a degree, and some have pursued doctoral graduate studies as well,” says Greg Martinez, director of the Center for Multicultural Educational Opportunities.
Stoyanova Johnson will stay up late at night finishing last-minute requests from students for letters of recommendation to include with their scholarship applications, according to Patty Alonzo, the program coordinator for GEAR UP Idaho (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), a state Department of Education program.
“She has helped hundreds of students understand that college is an option when they did not understand the process,” Alonzo said.
Stoyanova Johnson first came to the United States in 2003 as part of an exchange program and interned at the Hilton Hotel at the New Orleans Convention Center. She earned a master’s degree in business administration from Boise State in 2008 and is pursuing a doctorate degree in education from the university.
She became an educational specialist for the TRIO ETS program in 2008 and was selected for her current position as project director in 2017.
Today, Stoyanova Johnson serves as president of the Idaho Association of TRIO Professionals and has been awarded the Boise State Hall of Fame Leadership Award in 2008 for cultural contributions to the campus.