The Jamar Hamilton story
In ninth grade, some boys were playing cricket in the classroom, using the broken wooden back of a chair as a bat. The ball flew and hit another boy, who was sitting talking with a friend, in his mouth. Two teeth were broken, leaving this teenage boy of 15 with a smile displaying broken front teeth, which did not add to his attractiveness. In spite of this, the young man continued to be friends with the boys who had damaged his teeth. He continued with his humble, affable demeanour to assist his classmates with their work. This young man's name is Jamar Hamilton. It is a name that you will be hearing more about in the years to come.
Jamar is the top student in the CXC-CSEC 2009 examinations. He is a student of Ardenne High School. He passed 10 subjects, all with distinctions. In each subject he attained a straight-'A' profile.
Who is this young man? What is his background? What has influenced him? What separates him from the typical young Jamaican male who only sees success in 'cutting a chune' or 'mekking duppy'?
Jamar hails from Portland. He first went to Portland Prep then to Shebian Prep. He passed the GSAT from Shebian Prep and was awarded a Jamaica National Building Society scholarship to Ardenne High School. He was the head boy of Shebian Prep.
Jamar had adults who influenced his life positively. Jamar recalls that Miss Cunningham from Portland Prep encouraged him to write stories and articles in spite of the fact that he hated it. He was motivated to continue writing when he wrote an article that was published in the Children's Own and was thought to be so good that it was published again. He, however, still found English to be his most difficult subject until 10th grade, when Miss Aiken got him to see the subject in a different way and he began to like it.
Another great influence on his life was his principal at Shebian Prep, Dr Williams-Allison. Jamar recounts that she never allowed her students to settle for second best. She made sure that she provided the material for her students to excel. He recounts how, to prepare them for GSAT, Dr Williams-Allison took her students on a four-day retreat to provide them with a period of focused, saturated study. She also made sure that they learnt to assume responsibilities, with the older students helping and caring for the younger ones.
Dr Williams-Allison said that 'Shebian' was an old Coptic word which meant 'house of learning'. The concept is essential to her vision of learning in which she takes the term 'school' and transforms it into an all-encompassing idea which includes: How do I learn as a person? What is my relationship to my community? What is my relationship with God? What do I turn my back on? These are clearly magnified in Jamar's life.
Jamar Hamilton, outstanding high-school student. - File
At high school, Jamar's greatest motivators were his teachers and his friends. He could go to his teachers after class and ask them to explain what he did not understand. He felt that he had great teachers and friends at Ardenne High.
Jamar learnt to look out for others from home. His family consists of his father, mother, grandmother and his elder sister, Joy, who was born with brain damage. Jamar's mother relates how as a child, he would take his sister outside to play and when others passing by would say hurtful things about her, he would get very upset. He was protective of his sister. This caring attitude characterises Jamar's life. He portrays it at home and also at school. He is known to be humble and extremely willing to assist his classmates to understand any area that is difficult for them.
Jamar's parents instilled in him positive values. In spite of the fact that they never got a high-school education, they ensured that he had the opportunity to do so. His mother would stay up with him in the nights to assist him with his work. She would ask others for help when she did not know the information. In addition, he has learnt from his parents not to look for excuses for why he can't achieve, but to persist in the face of obstacles to do well. Even though his father has to work away from home, he still encourages him and lets him know how proud he is of him. His parents taught him not to allow his circum-stances to determine his outcome, but to use hard work and perseverance to accomplish his goals. His parents brought him up in Church, and this has had a positive impact on his life. He is prayerful. Prayer, he says, is a source of comfort to him.
When asked what he thought accounted for the 80:20 female to male ratio at university level in Jamaica, Jamar felt that many Jamaican young men wanted to live in the 'bad-man' mentality. This mindset has been bred from the music, television, and even parents. Only a commitment from the society generally to the wholesome development of our young men can change this.
Jamar has no formula for academic success. Each person, he says, learns differently. What might work for one individual might not work for another. What is important is to be motivated and determined in one's goals to succeed.
What are Jamar's future plans? He wants to be an aeronautical engineer. In pursuing this dream, he has enrolled in the newly opened Caribbean Areospace College in Jamaica. He will go on to further studies abroad to equip himself to achieve his goals.
Jamar displays integrity. According to his guardian, "The Jamar you see is the Jamar you get." I know that he will go far and the characteristics of humility, gentleness, thoughtfulness of others and prayerfulness will go with him.
Jamar, Ardenne High, Shebian Prep, Portland Prep and your family are proud of you!
Esther Tyson is principal of Ardenne High School, St Andrew.