Congratulations to Paul A. Thibodeau, Class of 2020 Graduate Student Leadership Award Winner!
Thibodeau has faced many challenges in his life but still considers his a blessed existence. After years of drug and alcohol addiction, Thibodeau got sober 25 years ago and is now committed to helping others overcome their own challenges.
After completing his undergraduate degree in human services from Fitchburg State in 2015, Thibodeau continued his studies at the graduate level in the hopes of building a career in counseling. Those plans were interrupted after a horrific car crash in 2017.
“It was a gorgeous fall night,” he recalled. “I was on my way to class when the accident happened. On a night like that I would have normally taken my motorcycle, but my car was looking so slick, I took that.”
The collision shattered his femur and left him with a traumatic brain injury. “Had I been on my motorcycle I’d have been crippled or left for dead,” he said. “I’ve had a blessed life. I’ve made a few wrong turns, but I’ve come out well. The Fates in their infinite wisdom haven’t saved me so I can suck up air and use up limited resources. I’m supposed to help people overcome their adversities. That’s a good purpose. My life has meaning. All those adversities I’ve had to overcome have had a purpose.”
In nominating Thibodeau for the graduate award, faculty members saluted his resilience and his commitment to continuing his studies, despite the challenges created by the accident – including delaying his graduation by a full year.
Thibodeau now works as a counselor for the Montachusett Opportunity Council and looks forward to getting his own license to practice on his own. “I have a certain level of empathy and experience that help me to be a better observer and a better counselor,” he said. “My job as a counselor is not to fix people. I like to say I’m doing God’s work, not God’s job. It’s exactly what I hoped for.”
Thibodeau will address his fellow graduates when the university's in-person ceremony is scheduled.
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