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Commonwealth Honors Program

777 Elsbree Street
Fall River, MA 02720

Kimberly Amaral Newton
Commonwealth Honors Program Coordinator



It was a winding road to get to college for Paul R. Vermette II, 23, of New Bedford. Once a high school drop-out, Paul is now graduating from Bristol Community College with highest honors, numerous scholarships and a half dozen acceptance letters from prestigious institutions across the country. 

In his sophomore year of high school, Paul’s best friend died in a car accident. Paul had been struggling in school, and the loss of his friend put him over the edge. He dropped out and began jumping from one minimum wage job to the next. A year later, Paul walked away from his own major car accident, unharmed. The next day, when he went to grab his belongings from his mangled car, the mechanic told him not to forget his friend’s funeral card, sitting on the dash. As he handed over the card, he told Paul he had never seen anyone walk away from a car so badly damaged. Paul was taken aback. These encounters with death made him take pause and ask, “Why am I here?” 

His accident was a true wake-up call. He enrolled in night school to earn his high school diploma while working full time. And then he set his eyes on college. With no SATs and a low GPA, his options were slim. That’s until an admissions counselor from Bristol encouraged him to apply. He enrolled in fall 2016 as a full time student, taking honors courses on Bristol’s New Bedford and Fall River campuses, all while working full time at Best Buy. 

Paul said his experience at Bristol was enlightening. While he acknowledged that he was smart, he never fully understood his true potential. That is, until his instructors at Bristol saw it. This lit a spark – no, a fire – in him. And since then he’s been unstoppable. He graduates on June 2, summa cum laude,and as President of the Student Senate. 

He’s accepted the offer at join Cornell University, with plans to join the junior class in 2019, after a year of serving in the Air National Guard.

For his future, Paul plans to give back to New Bedford. He feels an obligation to help at-risk youth, many of whom, like him, don’t know they’re at risk until it’s too late. He wants to help others turn their disadvantages into advantages that drive them – just as he did.