He was bullied in prep school due to a speech impediment that he had, but he now delivers the valedictory address for hundreds of graduates at the prestigious University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona.
That experience reflects the mettle of the man, David Salmon, an award-winning opinion journalist, decorated university debater, one-time Prime Minister in the island’s Youth Parliament, and a scholar par excellence.
He graduated on Friday (November 4, 2022) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Policy and Management (first class honours), as well as a minor in International Relations.
And he is recipient of the Faculty of Social Sciences Academic Achievement Award for amassing the second highest Grade Point Average (GPA) in the faculty. His GPA is 4.17 out of a possible 4.30.
The 22-year-old is now attending the University of Cambridge in the USA where he is pursuing a Master’s degree in Development Studies. It was made possible after he became recipient of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales Commonwealth Scholarship.
Salmon, a former recipient of the UWI Open Scholarship, recalled that his sojourn through UWI had less than a smooth start.
In his first semester, he was hospitalized with dengue fever a month before the start of exams, he disclosed.
He also ended up changing his degree programme, having started in the Faculty of Law.
“I spent two weeks in that faculty and I didn’t feel like it was my calling. I thought having or looking at public policy was a way how I could better engage my interest,” Salmon told The Beacon.
His transition was not a shocker, considering that his family history is steeped in public service. “I benefited from doing a programme that I absolutely love,” Salmon declared.
His grandfather, Herbert Rhoden, who impressed upon him the importance of public service, was a correctional officer for more than 30 years. And his father, Andrew Salmon worked with the Ministry of Health as a medical doctor.
The St Andrew native’s upbringing has a significant bearing on the man he has become.
“I enjoyed my childhood with my mother, grandfather and other positive persons. They taught me important values such as hard work, determination and mental fortitude which helped me in some of my negative experiences… I had a speech impediment which caused me to be bullied in prep school, but positive lessons helped me during such times of challenges,” he explained.
Salmon, an alumnus of Wolmer’s Boys School, also noted: “My mother Donnahae Rhoden-Salmon consistently shared with my younger brother and I that, as young men, we should make an impact wherever we go.”
His mother’s urging has not been lost on him, considering the indelible mark he has been making in different spheres of life.
Salmon, in 2021, was recipient of the Governor General’s Achievement Award for the parish of St. Andrew due to his academic achievement and community involvement.
Two years earlier, he received the Prime Minister’s National Youth Award for Nation Building, partly due to the effort he exerted to relaunch the Jamaica Prefects Association, which he served as president.
In 2020, Salmon was Surrey county coordinator for the National Youth Parliament of Jamaica. He served as Prime Minister at that parliament’s 11th sitting.
In addition, Salmon, since January 2021, has been serving as the Regulations and Certification Committee Chairman of the board of the Early Childhood Commission (ECC). In this position, he successfully advocated for the declaration of the Year of Early Childhood Development, which Governor General Sir Patrick Allen made by proclamation this year.
Salmon is also the founder of the New Jamaica Foundation (NJF), whose mandate is to promote youth development. According to him, the NJF has hosted numerous workshops, planned donations, and hosted exam revision sessions for hundreds of secondary school students.
Salmon, described as a prolific writer and opinion journalist, has articles frequently published in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper.
He stated that, while he was studying at UWI, he wrote more than 250 articles that dealt with ‘thorny’ issues or proposed solutions to pressing problems in the society.
In recognition of Salmon’s work, the Press Association of Jamaica, in 2019, awarded him the Morris Cargill Award for Opinion Journalism. At that time, he was 19 years old.
Salmon, in the meantime, offered remarkable service to the UWI, where he received several awards especially for academic excellence. He also earned his stripes as a debater.
He was Vice-president of the university’s Debating and Public Speaking Society during the 2020-2021 academic year.
He also represented UWI in the World Universities Debating Championship in July 2021. Due to his performance, he got the JADE Debater of the Year Award (2019-2020), as well as the UWI Certificate for Outstanding Performance in Culture for debating (2022).
Salmon was a member of the UWI debating team that defended their title in the JADE (Justify, Argue, Defend and Explain) National Collegiate Debating Championship for both 2021 and 2022.
He was the Best Debater at the 2022 JADE Debate Academy and Open competition.
In February 2022, Salmon represented UWI at the Model United Nations conference held at Harvard University in Boston, USA.
In the meantime, the young achiever’s display of excellence in academics, advocacy and leadership did not start at UWI.
He was the valedictorian when he was graduating from Covenant Christian Academy and Children’s Centre.
In relation to Wolmer’s Boys School, he left with 10 CAPE subjects, as well as 10 CSEC subjects including nine with the best possible grade (Grade One).
Salmon also was deputy head boy, president of the Art Club, and president of the debating society at Wolmer’s.
With his wealth of experience and track record of excellence in mind, he underscored the importance of good time management and being organized.
He encouraged other university students to develop self-confidence, to preferably pursue areas that they are passionate about, and to not become distracted. “It is easy to become too involved where one may lose sight of the fact that they are there primarily to do well in their degree programme,” the scholar noted.
Asked how he eventually would like to be remembered, he told The Beacon: “I would like to be remembered as someone who has a heart for the most vulnerable and tried the very best to ensure that Jamaica could benefit from my skill set and expertise. That’s a philosophy I have applied throughout my life – that need to give back and to develop the society.”
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