When The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus held its graduation exercises recently, Jamar Grant was the only male in a quartet of valedictorians selected.
Grant, who is the first in his family to complete tertiary education, never once thought he would be standing at the podium, representing the Department of Humanities and Education to deliver the valedictorian speech to the class of 2023.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Linguistics, with First Class Honours.
Inspired by the support from teachers and driven by the desire to create an impact, Grant has decided to enter the field of teaching at his alma mater, Godfrey Stewart High School in Westmoreland, where he is a pre-trained teacher of Literacy and Theatre Arts.
He told JIS News that teaching is more than imparting information.
“It’s a very rough journey… you are also imparting values and wisdom and it factors in more than what is seen in the official curriculum. There is a hidden curriculum we hear about from time to time,” he shares.
Grant, who himself had teachers who made significant impressions on his life, feels that he, too, must impact the lives of others.
“Because I had impactful teachers, I thought it would be unjust and I’d be wasting my time if I am not creating impact on people and not just students, so that’s a part of the journey that makes it even harder,” he said.
From as early as basic school, his teachers formed a community of supporters that followed him throughout his academic journey.
“I really had a strong community of support when I was at school, so my teachers are dear to me. These are the people who were very adamant that I learn. My mother used to tell me that she did not have to pay school fees for me to go to basic school because the teachers thought that I was smart, and they wanted me to be at school. They understood her economic situation; I am one of six children for her, [and] that’s just maternally,” Jamar explained.
A native of More-Rock Sheffield, a rural community in Westmoreland, Grant grew up with his mother and five siblings.
He never met his father, who he says left when his mother was pregnant with him.
“The story of my father is very interesting. I share it in a humorous way, but it is not. I learnt that when she was eight months pregnant with me, either eight or six I believe that’s the story I was told, he left and never came back, so I’ve never met him,” Grant stated.
Despite growing up in a single-parent household, the 2023 Valedictorian did not find his upbringing challenging.
“Childhood wasn’t something I found challenging. We did not live in an isolated environment… . We had a great sense of community and at around our time, the community was still raising the child. So, if your needs could not be met in your household, you could go next door,” he shared.
Stakeholders from the Claire Whyte Academic scholarship Fund, Donnalyn Adlam (left) and Patrick Butler (right) share a moment with Jamar Grant, after he delivered his valedictorian speech at The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus graduation ceremony on November 3, 2023.
Grant was a beneficiary of the Claire Whyte Academic Scholarship, through his church, Sheffield New Testament Church of God.
The late Claire Whyte was a member of the church who had generously invested in the community even when she relocated overseas. In her will, she stated that a scholarship should be created in her name to help those in financial need.
Grant was a recipient of this scholarship from grade nine in high school until his final year of undergraduate studies at the UWI.
“Initially when I heard the story, I wasn’t thinking it would have been me who was going to be selected. I was going to a high school in Westmoreland that wasn’t regarded as ‘the school’,” he stated.
Grant’s love for broadcasting influenced his decision to study journalism. However, after exposure to the practice of journalism through an internship, he realised that it was not the best career option for him.
“I started university and I realised that journalism is so much more than sounding good and writing well, but it had to factor in so many other things. It demands your time in an aggressive way and manner,” he said.
His introduction to linguistics began at university through a friend and he pursued it as a minor in his second year.
“Had I known about linguistics, I would have been a linguist today. I did not want to switch my major but in another life probably I would. But it was a fun course. Learning about languages was so fascinating; I enjoyed it,” he stated.
Grant decided to capitalise on his linguistics background and go into teaching, and now also conducts speech training for young men in his church.
He advised young people from a similar background to focus on their path, and to depend on their creator.
“It is never where you are coming from. It is where you are going and that should be your exclusive focus. Focus on where you are going. Do not ever be daunted by what you see around you. Do not be distracted by what you see around you,” he said.
“Understand, as well, that you can’t be by yourself. Find your creator or… any form of spiritual motivation to do things and get it done,” he added.
Grant also volunteers with the Negril Education Environment Trust (NEET), a non-profit organisation focused on education.