Martina Newell: Paying it Forward


Martina Newell Photo credit: Asher Ballantine

Cooper O'Connell, Writer

“I have really enjoyed this new role,” said Martina Newell (’98), Bellows Free Academy’s new registrar/secretary.

Before arriving at BFA, Newell had worked at the Samaritan House in Saint Albans.

“I come from social services, so I was previously at the Samaritan House, and I was the case manager for the community, mainly for people experiencing homelessness. My background included a lot of administrative work, so this new job is kind of like that, so this is great,” Newell said.

As a BFA alumna, Newell is very familiar with the school. As a student, Newell said she was very involved in school, participating as a member of the track and field team, a member of the student council and manager of the varsity basketball team.

“I grew up in Saint Albans,” Newell said.  She added, “I went to Saint Albans Town School and City School for a short time…then…I came here for high school. When I graduated, I told myself I don’t like the cold anymore, so I’m going to go to the nicest place I can think of, and for me that was Tampa.”

Newell said that she enrolled at the University of Tampa. When Newell graduated, she took up an administrator role at the school and then worked in what is called “student transition and persistence,” which is helping people that are majoring in STEM fields.

“We helped students from all over the Florida area,” Newell said.

Newell and her colleagues helped out with the unexpected fees that can arise while attending college.

“[The University of Tampa] ha[d] tons of programs,” Newell said, “We ha[d] book scholarships and we also helped with unknown fees. There are lab fees, and then there are little things like having to buy a special coat if you do chemistry. There are all these underlying things you have to pay for. This was also true for art. You would have to get special tools and items that are not included in the price. We would also help out with test fees.”

Newell said she really enjoyed working at the University of Tampa because it was a similar layout to BFA.

“The campus is small, but it has a big feeling to it and reminded me of BFA. BFA isn’t small but it’s also not like Burlington High School, which is larger,” Newell said.

Newell’s said her reason for coming back to Vermont was that she wanted her husband and 6-year-old son to be closer to family.

When The Mercury asked Newell why she specifically came back to BFA, she said “Education, to me, has always been important. I feel like it is more than just learning out of books and learning other things. It’s really about learning about yourself as well as learning about life. I lost my mom at a young age. When I came to BFA as a freshman, I had just lost her, and if it hadn’t been for the staff here at BFA and for my 18-year-old sister who took care of me, I’m not sure I would’ve eventually graduated.” 

Newell added, “It was really the people here, and the staff here, that made me feel like I was welcomed, so I felt like I want to give that back and I want to pay it forward.”