Jerome Palmer thankful for second chances
Twenty-four-year-old University of the West Indies student Jerome Palmer, who is pursuing a BSc in international relations, is today giving God thanks for second chances.
The script for his life was a perfect one for failure, but something inside him wanted more, and that gave him all the strength and determination he needed to go for it.
Growing up in an unstable environment, Palmer spent most of his life moving from one inner-city community to another - Hannah Town, Tivoli Gardens, Denham Town. He seemed to live all over western Kingston, attending St Andrew Technical High School and Tivoli Garden High at another. It was no wonder he left high school unprepared for the world.
"I was not a social person, nor was I exposed to certain preventative factors. Consequently, by the time I was to graduate, I had little if any CXCs and therefore no chance of being a productive and constructive youth. I was an angry, unattached youth with no need for the constructive values inherited from my systems," he said.
Palmer said that as a youngster, he had dreams of being engaged in the sciences, but lost those after second form when he looked at the reality of his living conditions and what it would take for him to maintain his presence in school, plus take care of his day-to-day needs.
"I had to find work to meet my needs. This was the reality for me and many of my peers, so I had to hustle to take care of myself. I gave up on academics after second form and began to engulf myself in activities that would give me immediate cash. I still went to school, it's just that I was not there when I was there," he told Family and Religion.
Palmer said his outlook on life underwent a 360-degree change after the Tivoli Gardens incursion in 2010.
He said he was traumatised by the violence and was heading into a path of destruction when the reality dawned on him that he could be somebody. He refused to accept that he was a result of his circumstances, and instead, he decided to repeat fifth form at St Andrew Technical.
Palmer soon got involved in leadership, where he said he served as president for "almost everything" while dominating the academics from 10th grade to sixth form. Each day, he said, would see him working harder than the last to improve his grades, all in an attempt to start to "soak up knowledge to make up for my deficiencies".
Palmer also decided that he wanted to use his life to inspire other at-risk youths. He said after being exposed to to youth delinquency and youth violence, he wanted to use his first-hand experience and understanding to make a difference in their lives.
Today, he has that perfect opportunity as the regional case manager for the Organisation of American States' new Path Project in Jamaica.
"I have some youth development initiates that I am consulted to do. On Mondays, I produce and host a youth-centred radio programme on Roots 96.1 FM. It provides employment, enables youths advocacy and interviews youth doing extraordinary things in their communities, and I am involved in community-based initiatives and youth advocacy," he shared.
Palmer said his job fulfils him, but if there is one thing he would wish to change and one he said that would make his job easier is having more stakeholders to not only believe in the initiative, but also to sacrifice their resources and come on board.
"I am here because of second chances, so I try my best to be there to give someone else a second chance. The only thing within me that competes with my work to develop youth is my involvement in advocacy for youth," he said.
Palmer is giving thanks to the positive influences in his life that aided in turning his situation around.
He said his former principal, Dr Curlie Christie, and Michelle Braham of the National Youth Orchestra made indelible marks on him.