Beacon of the day | Rural ‘boy’ becomes Jamaica’s Rhodes Scholar 2021; he almost didn’t apply

November 21, 2020 1 By Horace Mills

Former Head Boy of York Castle High School in St. Ann, Fitzroy Wickham, who was two years old when his father Ronald Wickham died, has brought more pride and joy to his rural household – becoming Jamaica’s Rhodes Scholar 2021.

The internationally renowned scholarship, which covers all expenses, will enable Fitzroy to complete within four years his master’s and doctorate degrees in Neuroscience at Oxford University in England.

King’s House announced Fitzroy as the winner after the Jamaican Rhodes Selection Committee interviewed 10 finalists – including Fitzroy – on Thursday, November 19.

Reflecting on the process, the new scholar told The Beacon: “The four hours the committee members used to deliberate were the four longest hours of my life… I was nervous throughout [the process] and had cold feet several times.”

Fitzroy almost didn’t apply for the scholarship although a mentor, Dr. Dennis Minott, nearly a year ago, encouraged him to take a shot at it.

“I submitted my application on the day of the deadline and even then I was having second thoughts…” he recalled.

Fitzroy noted: “I had heard Mr. Raymond Treasure, my former high school principal, say repeatedly in school functions that Jamaica’s first Rhodes Scholar was from York Castle – over 100 years ago! These thoughts wouldn’t leave me; and then I decided I’d apply just to get the feel of going through the process and then re-apply next year if I wasn’t successful.”

Fitzroy was hit by a wave of emotions when he was informed that he is the finalist selected. “First there was just utter shock, then an immense sense of gratitude, followed by sheer excitement,” he said.

He attributed his accomplishment to hard work.

He, in 2014 , was Jamaica’s top performer in the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC), administered by the Caribbean Examination Council. He said he attained the best grade available (Grade One) in the 12 subjects he sat. Fitzroy later reaped success in 12 subjects at the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) level.

He is now enrolled at Wesleyan University in the United States where he is completing a Bachelor’s degree. He is double majoring in Neuroscience and Theatre, and minoring in Chemistry.

Fitzroy has been much more than an academic standout. He is a former Head Boy at York Castle High School and Class Senator on his university’s student government – the Wesleyan Student Assembly. He is also the Senior Class President at the university, and a Head Resident for Residential Life.

In addition, Fitzroy serves on the Community Standards and Honour Boards at Wesleyan University. He is the co-founder and Vice-President of YAADI – the Jamaican student club at the said tertiary institution.

Fitzroy, in 2016, received the Governor General’s Achievement Award for the parish of St. Ann for his outstanding performance in academics and social outreach.

He intends to contribute significantly to rural development in Jamaica. A rural ‘boy’ himself, he grew up at Orange Hill in Brown’s Town, St. Ann.

He told The Beacon: “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.

“I had to leave my community to take advantage of numerous opportunities to realize my dreams. I want to bridge that opportunity gap and bring the resources to the people in these overlooked parts of our island to release the untapped potential. I strongly believe that Jamaica’s most important natural resource is its people,” Fitzroy added.

He, having lost his father, grew up with his sister Kimberly and mother Florence Wickham. He noted that his grandmother, Lillian Brown, was also well known in the area.

“Life growing up was very simple,” said Fitzroy, a Brown’s Town Primary School graduate.

He added: “My mother is a high school Math teacher and, as such, she really encouraged us to work hard and get a good education to achieve our dreams. My younger days were filled with a lot of reading, competing in the Jamaica Library Service Reading Competition, and attending the Brown’s Town Baptist Church for Sunday school and worship services.”

Fitzroy is bent on becoming a neurosurgeon, neuroscientist and actor.

He is also passionate about inspiring young people.

He urged them: “Don’t be afraid to be different! Take time to know yourself, your innate abilities and what your dreams are. Believe in yourself and others will eventually begin seeing the potential inside of you – and if they don’t, that’s not your problem. Keep pushing! Be a decent human being to everyone because the energy you exude will return to you.”

By Horace Mills, Journalist

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