It was an honour, therefore, to interview a young man who I have come to know, love and deeply respect: Kamal Wood, past 2007 CMEx Youth Delegate and a final year student at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados. He is recipient of the 2010 Rhodes Scholarship for the Commonwealth Caribbean.
The Rhodes Scholarship, one of the most notable and respected international scholarship programmes, was first established in 1902 by businessman Cecil Rhodes who built a fortune in Africa. Recipients are awarded full scholarships to England's Oxford University to pursue a post-graduate degree of their choice.
Each year one undergraduate from the Commonwealth Caribbean is awarded this Scholarship and has their name inscribed with the thousands of Scholars before them. The distinguished alumni includes United States President, William Clinton and recently departed Vice-Chancellor Emeritus of the University of the West Indies, Professor Rex Nettleford.
Kamal spoke to me about the more personal side of his life in an interview for an upcoming cover of Cave Hill Campus magazine (CHILL): "I grew up with two brothers and my parents in St. Vincent, I never took to sports, my dad tried to get me to play but I never liked it. My father would take us around during summer to see the beaches and play football and cricket. It was not all play though; there was a good emphasis on school. I hated Sunday afternoons because we had to sit down and do school work."
Kamal credits his father for his love of reading, "Daddy used to tell us to sit down and read the newspaper, and then come and tell him about it. I guess that is why I am such an avid reader now. I was an inquisitive child, I asked a lot of questions and when my parents got tired of me asking questions, they just bought an encyclopedia set."
He spoke in length of his own personal determination to always do better, that he does not necessarily feel pressure to succeed from external elements but rather he pressures himself to succeed.
Kamal, who will pursue a MSc. in Mathematical Modelling and Scientific Computing at Oxford University, noted he doesn't know precisely what he wants to do in the next 10 years, "but there are things I would love to do. I would love to have a family. I know that I want to make a great contribution to science especially in my area of specialty".
Kamal, who will be graduating at the end of this academic year with a degree in Computer Science and Mathematics, currently holds a 4.21 GPA and is an active member in many clubs and societies on campus. When asked if he will miss UWI, he shrugged and said that he will miss his friends but does not think he will really feel homesick until he is at Oxford in a completely different environment.
Before he left, I asked Kamal a question that most young people do not often stop to think about anymore: when he leaves this earth what will be his legacy? Reflecting for a minute he answered, "That my character will be one of integrity and fairness. I want to be an honest person. I want people to see me as I am. I do not want to be someone who pulls people down, I want to help people. I want to promote Caribbean unity and identity. I want to get rid of stereotypes based on nationalities and get rid of friction between governments."
Kamal's face will be on the cover of Cave Hill Campus' quarterly magazine, however one would never know the magnitude of his achievements by looking at him. Kamal has always taken his successes with a great dose of humility; he is often found having a conversation with his friends on the lawns of the Campus or running late for class. Kamal, in my view, epitomizes the future of the Caribbean - a young man who in his own quiet, unassuming manner never stops reaching to the heights of excellence while in pursuit of a better Caribbean region.
As a friend, schoolmate and former CMEx youth delegate, I tip my hat to him and say on behalf of the entire CMEx family, "We applaud you for your past, present and continuing successes. Bien fait Kamal. We are proud of you!"
Charmaine Joseph is a St. Lucian student at UWI's Cave Hill Campus in Barbados reading for a B.Sc. in Psychology. From the age of 17, her work has been published in St. Lucian newspapers and she presently writes for the university's magazine.