Jamaican Tonia Williams, 23, has been selected as the nation’s Rhodes Scholar for 2022. The announcement of her scholarship was made at King’s House after a day of interviews for the 11 individuals in competition for the Rhodes award.
Williams, a former student at Immaculate Conception High School, studied psychology at Vassar University in the United States and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in education at Harvard University. Williams will travel to Oxford University in the United Kingdom in October of 2022, joining over 100 other Rhodes Scholars from around the world. Williams will participate in a fully-sponsored program of post-graduate studies at Oxford and become a member of an international community of individuals who are committed to making the world a better place.
Williams experienced a moment of shock when she heard she was receiving the Rhodes Scholarship for 2022, she said. After calming down, she called her parents and grandmother to share the news. Her family praised her for the dedication, work ethic, and discipline that led to receiving the scholarship. Williams said she was grateful and honored to be a recipient of the scholarship and is happy to have the chance to represent herself, her family, her former educational institutions, and the Jamaican people on the world stage.
She remembered her time at Immaculate Conception High School in St. Andrew and discovering her love of and aptitude for the sciences and mathematics, which caused her to pursue a career in pediatrics at first. Later on, she decided to follow actuarial science instead when she found that it was not the medicine in pediatrics that attracted her, but the potential it presented in helping children, guiding those younger than herself, especially those with special needs.
Describing herself as a “big dreamer,” Williams always wanted to travel, and even lacking concrete travel plans, she prepared herself for travel by learning to speak French. Although she was unsuccessful in applying for summer programs across United World Colleges when she was in the fifth form, she persevered and was accepted the next year when at 17 years of age she went to spend two years in Bosnia and Herzegovina. While on her first trip abroad, she fulfilled a long-held dream of teaching English when she volunteered at a local kindergarten, solidifying her passion for education.
Later, Williams attended Vassar University and earned her undergraduate degree in physiological psychology. In her current program at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, Williams is focusing on human development in education. She has also taken on a mentorship role for younger students in Jamaica who may think their dreams are beyond them. She advised them to trust their journey and allow themselves to explore different options while also keeping their goal in mind.
Rhodes Scholarships for Jamaica launched in 1904 and since then have been awarded to one outstanding candidate every year. The Rhodes Scholarship is the most prestigious and oldest graduate fellowship in the world and has been based at Oxford University since 1903.