It's deck Cadet Ramado Palomino
Young Jamaican secures job with top cruise line; reflects on finding dream career
Ramado Palomino says his journey is a testament to the fact that sometimes it takes a while to really figure out what it is that you are really meant to do.

Ramado Palomino registered for, and completed two weeks at the University of Technology (UTech), Jamaica, before he realised he did not want to study business.

Just 17-year-old at the time, he quit UTech after unearthing a predilection he always had within him for travelling, meeting new people from different cultural backgrounds, going to the beach, and enjoying his own company. Those were the factors he used to determine which career would actually suit him best.

Today, he prepares to go to sea as a deck cadet for an international cruise line. And it all started when the question popped in his mind: "Why not work on ships?"

"My sister had a friend who worked onboard ships, so I called him and we had a discussion regarding his job. He was a navigation officer at the time, climbing the ranks to being a captain of a gas carrier and that sounded perfect for me. My mom made it clear that any decision I made would be completely up to me and she would support me regardless," Palomino told the Jamaica Observer.

Eagerly, he then drove to Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) trying to apply for the programme, marine and nautical studies, to pursue what was "my dream job".

"I met with the dean of the faculty and he told me that it might be too late because I had already missed a few of the recruitment activities. For example, a fitness test that was conducted the previous month and indoctrination which commenced two days before. Marine and nautical studies is a paramilitary programme, so indoctrination was a two-week camp where they taught you how to march, raise the national flag, salute, other military activities and regular home training like making your bed, washing, being strict on time, et cetera."

But Palomino said the dean saw how interested he was in the programme, and told him at 1000 hours (10:00 am) that if he could go home in Portmore, St Catherine, to trim his hair, shave his beard, pack a suitcase and be back at Port Royal by 1400 hours (2:00 pm), he would be able to join the programme.

"So, I rushed and called my barber, sent my mom to buy necessities and packed my suitcase then went to Port Royal just in time. I then completed the recruitment process and little did I know, this is where my life would've changed. After completing indoctrination, I was a changed man and my mom was surprised when she picked me back up," Palomino told the Sunday Observer.

"I was sun-burnt so badly that I could peel off my face, and my hand middle was rubbed out from doing all the push-ups. I started doing the bare minimum like making my own bed every morning and waking up at 0600 hours (6:00 am) sharp every morning. School then commenced and I was told that the programme consists of three aspects — academics, discipline and fitness," he continued.

His academic journey began in preparatory school where he struggled to balance sports and academics. His parents sent him to four different prep schools in an effort to steer him towards high performance.

The first was Suthermere Prep where he spent just one year. At the time, his main focus was playing sports, especially football.

"It was very hard to find a balance between sports and academics, but my parents were very strict on the academic aspect of school, and the only thing that motivated me to go to school was playing sports so there was a big clash. They moved me to Dunrobin Prep for grade two which still didn't work out because I was still performing below average," he said.

"They then sent me to St John The Baptist Prep for grade three and that also didn't work so they sent me back to Suthermere Prep for grade four after speaking with the vice-principal, trying to convince her to keep an extra eye on me to try to get me to focus more on academics. Unfortunately, my dad got a stroke and passed away approaching the summer of grade four and this changed everything," Palomino recalled.

His mother, Pethrona Ford, was then left to raise three children as a single mother. She moved Palomino to One Way Prep for grade five where there wasn't an active football programme, so he didn't have a choice but to stop playing.

However, they were involved in track and field, and Palomino participated on the track team and ran at Prep Champs.

"This is where I also started to excel academically, working very hard bearing my dad in mind. I stayed at One Way Prep for grades five and six, where I was then topping my class and getting awards. I then passed for Wolmer's Boys' School with a 93 per cent average in GSAT which was my first choice because my oldest sister, Anna Palomino, went to Wolmer's Girls' School," he told the Sunday Observer.

Palomino said after starting high school, he became comfortable and complacent having in mind that "I've already reached."

"I went straight back to how I was, failing all my classes, maintaining Cashpot averages between 35 per cent to 65 per cent throughout my entire time at Wolmer's. A teacher even once called my mother into a meeting telling her that I was too slow compared to the other students, and that I should attend a handicapped school instead. I attempted my first CSEC subject, mathematics, in fourth form, because it was my favourite subject and I barely passed with a grade three."

After completing fifth form, he passed six of eight subjects. He then had to start thinking about a career path, which at the time, he thought was business.

He advised youngsters that it is okay to not have everything figured out early.

"It will come to you. Think about what you love and what you want to do, what you can see yourself doing for years to come. You don't have to necessarily let your parents decide for you. It's never too late. Even if you make up your mind that you want to do something, it's never too late. You have plenty time and you have options," he said.

And even when one has it figured out, there is still room for growth. At the end of each academic year at CMU, a merit list is published with the names of each cadet ranking in order from top to bottom with of the highest achievers in each class.

Palomino said he was very unfit and still wasn't paying much attention to his academics. When the first merit list was published, he checked and saw that he ranked 16th out of approximately 20 students in the class. This list was posted at the front of the classroom.

"Anybody who came in would look straight at it. I was so embarrassed and I never wanted to experience that again. That is when I buckled down and started studying very hard and that was when I even started the gym. I was overweight and I lost 30 pounds. I now went from 16th to third on the merit list the following year. Ever since, I've fallen in love with fitness so I gained back 30 pounds of muscle mass," he related.

At the end of his journey, Palomino graduated with honours in marine transportation and immediately started thinking about the world of work.

"I sat down one day e-mailing and applying to over 30 cruise lines starting with the one I really wanted to sail onboard, even though I heard that only two Jamaicans alone got employed by them in my field; navigation. A few weeks later, I got an email from them inviting me to start the recruitment process. I was so excited, my family and I went out to celebrate without me even being accepted as yet," he said, requesting that the company's name be omitted as he hasn't started as yet.

After completing the recruitment step, he was employed.

"I finally got employed with the biggest shipping company in the cruise industry, being just the third Jamaican in my field. I now get the chance to represent my country, opening more opportunities for my colleagues and other graduates to come. This was all possible because of my mother who worked very hard to send all three of us through university. My sister Anna obtained a law degree from The University of the West Indies, my sister Daneel obtained a nursing degree from University of Technology, and I obtained a marine transportation degree from Caribbean Maritime University."

After two weeks at the University of Technology (UTech), Ramado Palomino quit and shelved ideas of pursuing a business degree, and decided to pursue marine and nautical studies at Caribbean Maritime University (CMU).
Romardo Lyons

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