Jamaica’s 2021 Rhodes Scholar Almost Did Not Apply

Jamaica 2021 Rhodes Scholar Almost Did Not Apply - Fitzroy Pablo Wickham

Fitzroy Wickham, a student in neuroscience at Wesleyan University, has been selected as Jamaica’s Rhodes Scholar for 2021. He was announced as the winner on November 19, 2020, at King’s House and will now join the list of other Jamaicans to have been awarded the prestigious scholarship, including Norman Manley, Noel Nethersole, Rex Nettleford, Dudley Thompson and Hector Wynter.

Commenting on the award, Wickham told an interviewer from The Beacon that the four hours the selection committee deliberated were “the four longest hours of my life.” Wickham had nearly foregone applying for the scholarship, despite his outstanding academic career and only submitted his application on the day of the deadline. He was encouraged to apply by his mentor, Dr. Dennis Minott, nearly a year before. Wickham was motivated to in 2020 after he heard his former high school principal Raymond Treasure say the Jamaica’s first Rhodes Scholar had come from York Castle High School more than 100 years before and decided he would apply “just to get the feel of going through the process.” He thought he would re-apply the next year if he didn’t make it this time.

He first emotions upon hearing of his selection were “utter shock,” “an immense sense of gratitude,” and “sheer excitement.” He attributed his success to hard work. During his academic career, Wickham was the top performer from Jamaica in the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC), administered by the Caribbean Examination Council in 2014, getting the best grade possible in the 12 subjects he sat. Later on, he was successful in 12 subjects at the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) level. In 2016, he received the Governor General’s Achievement Award for St. Ann in recognition of his outstanding work in academics and social outreach.

At Wesleyan where he is finishing a BA degree with a double major in Neuroscience and Theater with a minor in Chemistry, Wickham serves as Class Senator in the Wesleyan Student Assembly, the university’s student government, and is Senior Class President at the university. He also serves as a Head Resident for Residential Life, is a member of the university’s Community Standards and Honor Boards, and is the co-founder and vice-president of YAADI, the Jamaican student club at Wesleyan.

Wickham noted that he had to leave his Jamaican community to avail himself of the opportunities he dreamt of, but that he intends on making significant contributions to the rural development of Jamaica. In The Beacon interview, he said, “As a likkle country-boy whose net worth was his imagination, I want to undertake initiatives that serve our most under-served population in Jamaica – our rural citizens.” He also wants to inspire young people, telling them not to be afraid to be different, to know what their unique abilities are and to follow their dreams. Keep pushing! Be a decent human being to everyone because the energy you exude will return to you.”

The Rhodes Scholarship allows outstanding students worldwide to study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. It is the most prestigious of the international scholarship programs and also the oldest, first being awarded in 1902.

The committee that named Wickham was headed by Sir Patrick Allen, Jamaica’s Governor-General, and past Rhodes Scholars in the past, including Dale Webber, professor, pro-vice-chancellor, and principal of the University of the West Indies, Mona. The scholarship covers all expenses and will allow Fitzroy to complete his Master’s and doctoral degrees at Oxford within four years.

Photo Source: Fitzroy Wickham Facebook 

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Stephanie Korney