Career & Education

Mico Gold Medal awardee: Jeremy Palmer

Sunday, November 19, 2017

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Over the next few weeks the Jamaica Observer will feature each of the Mico University College Alumni Association's Gold Medal awardees for 2017. This is the third instalment.

Jeremy Palmer's life exemplifies the popular Bible verse from Proverbs 22: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it”.

The former mayor of Black River has lived a life of service, having grown up in the church and later extending his efforts through the fields of law and politics.

“I grew up in the church. My parents belonged to the missionary church in Southfield, but as a teenager I became a member of the Christian Brethren Churches of Jamaica. That has been a very important aspect of my life, my faith and my membership in the church,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

The church came out of a high school called Bethel High School, which was founded by Aubrey McGann and his wife Monica.

“They were my spiritual mentors, and one of the strong influences that I had. The McGanns were the founders of the church. They started the school and they also founded the church,” he said. Two other people who influenced Palmer's life choices were Cliff and Joyce Chang.

“They played a critical role in my life. They are the ones who inspired me to become a teacher. So I went on to Mico because Mr Chang had gone to Mico. I was inspired by him a lot.”

Palmer, a trained teacher, has won numerous accolades for his service, including the Order of Distinction, Officer class, in 2016; honours from the St Elizabeth Homecoming Foundation, and from the 4-H Club. Most recently, he received the MOSA (Mico University College Alumni Association) Gold Medal Award which is given biennually to outstanding past students of Mico.

The biennial awards ceremony and banquet, held at the Jamaica Pegasus on September 16, honoured five people this year — Palmer, Dr Yvonne Shorter Brown, Dr Arthur Geddes, Mervis Johnson, and Dr Clinton Hutton.

As a young man, Palmer left his hometowm of Southfield, St Elizabeth to pursue a career he had grown to love because of the Changs — teaching. He attended the then Mico Teachers' College and quickly got involved in student life.

“Oh, Mico was lovely. It had a tremendous impact on me. There was a lot of discipline, and I have never had so much interaction with persons from so many different backgrounds in Jamaica, as I had at Mico. Mico was really a great place for bonding with people who you were being trained with for the same profession,” he said.

As a student of Mico he was held the Student Relations Officer on the Student Council. Also during this time, he was the National President of the 4-H Club.

Mico instilled many values in Palmer, including an emphasis on patriotism and loyalty to country and society. He graduated at a time when schools were closing because of a shortage of teachers, and volunteered to run the New Gardens All Age (now primary) school so it could stay open.

His loyalty to society did not stop there, because Palmer then decided to get involved in politics and to become a lawyer. He missed teaching in the classroom, but had always wanted to try the field of law.

“I loved teaching. It was extremely rewarding to see the outturn. However, I enjoy speaking up for other people. I think I do my best when I'm championing somebody else's cause. As a Christian, I've learnt not to fight only for myself but also for others. It is so noble, and you get a wonderful feeling when you are speaking up for somebody else's rights,” Palmer added.

Needing to spend more time with his family, he left politics and focused on his private practice. But this was just a break from the political scene, because in 2007 he ran for the Pedro Plains division, served as chairman of the St Elizabeth Parish Council and as mayor of Black River from 2007-2012.

“Politics provides you with a broader platform from which to do good. You can always do small things for people. You can always touch a few lives by setting up a little community organisation and maybe sponsor some children going to school, which I did, through the church. I had an organisation in the church called Project Build Education. But in politics there is a bigger opportunity to really touch people's lives and really make an impact. That is the attraction that politics holds for me, that I have a stage from which I can launch into doing good in a more comprehensive way than I could do as a private citizen,” Palmer said.

— Falon Folkes

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