Career & Education

Former JIS employee heads to Reading University on Chevening award

Sunday, September 03, 2017

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For her first three years at Wolmer's High School for Girls, Shari-Ann Palmer would struggle to maintain passing grades.

Even when she did improve, with the help of her mother and the school's guidance counsellor, she describes herself as having been just an average student.

She explains that while she did not recognise it at the time, the death of her father shortly before she started high school not only challenged her Christian faith, but also significantly impacted her academic performance.

“I grew up in a happy family and being an only child, I was the centre of attention. All of that changed with the death of my father, when my mother really struggled to even send me to school,” she reveals.

Today, the young woman is preparing to commence a year-long stay in the United Kingdom, starting this month, where she will take up the UK Government's Chevening Scholarship to read for a Master of Science in Communication for Development at the University of Reading.

“I don't think I have really come to terms with the magnitude of it, but I am elated, excited and ecstatic, but with a little tinge of anxiety about what lies ahead,” the former Jamaica Information Service (JIS) public relations officer says.

She managed to succeed, Palmer says, as a result of an intrinsic drive to achieve, as well as the support of her mother and church family. She excelled at Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations and matriculated to Northern Caribbean University (NCU) where she read for a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication, with specialisation in radio. She was consistently an honours student, graduating cum laude in 2012.

She then accepted a summer intern position at JIS, which later became full-time occupation as assistant television producer. In 2014, having distinguished herself in the organisation, she was promoted to public relations officer, which included managing communication campaigns on behalf of government ministries, departments and agencies.

These roles, which she notes gave her a deep appreciation of the importance of media to the country's growth and development, are what inspired her to pursue communication for development.

“Working at JIS, being on the road, interacting with people at the grass-roots level… seeing the whole work of Government and getting people to respond to programmes and policies and to understand how it translates to them and how it benefits them [made me want to focus on how communication can drive development],” she says.

The modules in the master's programme will cover areas such as poverty and inequality, gender, governance and accountability, climate change and food security.

“Before I applied, I did research on some of the lecturers and they have done significant work in Africa and some underdeveloped countries, and I am impressed with how their work has impacted communities. I think that through their hands-on experience I can acquire knowledge that can be used in Jamaica, particularly in rural development,” Palmer tells JIS News.

One of her goals after completing the degree is to partner with relevant stakeholders to start a communication for development degree programme at her alma mater, NCU, which she believes will be valuable in getting communicators to focus their skills at the community level locally.

Palmer is one of 14 Jamaicans who were selected for the 2017-18 Chevening Scholarships.

The British High Commission, in a statement, said the scholarships are awarded to individuals with demonstrable leadership potential and strong academic backgrounds. The scholarship offers full financial support for individuals to study for any eligible master's degree at any UK university.

The former JIS staffer believes her genuine passion for and desire to positively impact her home country is what earned her a place among the 14.

“What it means for me is that I am limitless. This, to me, was one of the major things on my to-do list, and the fact that I have accomplished it says to me that there is nothing I can't accomplish once I put my mind to it and put in the work,” she says.

Palmer is a Sunday-school teacher, home Bible study officer, and a member of the national body of the Regional Evangelism and Mission Team with her church, Bethel United Church of Jesus Christ (Apostolic). She is also a member of the National Youth Committee of the organisation.

Palmer says she is looking forward to being exposed to the new and varied culture of the United Kingdom, as well as the opportunity to travel to other areas of Europe.

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