MALIKE Kellier thought his year as a Chevening scholar at University College of London (UCL) could not get any better so when he was chosen valedictorian of his graduating class he was absolutely thrilled.
It was like icing on a cake, he said, even as he shared that he felt humbled he had been given the “privilege” to deliver a speech on behalf of the graduating class during Friday’s ceremony.
“I had to make sure to not only share the stories of what our experience was… because we also had to be contending with strikes — the UK was undergoing teacher strikes, train strikes, doctor strikes, so there were so many challenges to overcome at the same time,” said Kellier who, during his year at the university, was elected president of the student body.
“As the student leader I had to keep fostering that sense of community amongst my student body to help them along the way and make sure that we could all cross the finish line. Of course, as a proud Jamaican I had to make sure that in delivering my valedictorian address I showed [patriotism] by speaking about Jamaica,” he said.
He told the Jamaica Observer that his valedictory address would not have been complete without a quote from Jamaica’s first National Hero Marcus Garvey: “There is no force like success.”
“Many people came to me after the ceremony to say that they were just so inspired by that quotation,” said Kellier.
“Brand Jamaica was on show today, and a young black man from that little island stood on the stage of a nearly 200-year-old school and rubbed shoulders with other great people. It was just a blessing and I am so thankful,” he added.
Kellier, an assistant director of public prosecutions, was named one of the 16 Chevening Scholarship recipients for 2022.
The fully funded scholarship took the Cornwall College old boy to the United Kingdom to pursue a master’s in human rights law.
The year abroad, he said, brought about many challenges and life-changing experiences.
“I couldn’t imagine in my wildest dreams the many opportunities I [would] have received while here in the UK. It has been a year full of excitement but also challenges, so I don’t want it to seem that studying, especially a Master of Law degree, was by any means any easy feat,” said Kellier.
A year outside of the Caribbean resulted in him missing home, but he found his footing in the busy city of London.
“I was able to find my community. I had my community of friends, other Chevening scholars — whether they were doing my programme or not — especially Chevening scholars from the Caribbean, who were my support system,” Kellier told the Sunday Observer.
Known for his passion for youth leadership, Kellier, a 2021 recipient of the Prime Minister’s National Youth Award for Excellence in the category of National Leadership, embarked on his one-year journey with great zeal.
“I maximised the opportunity in my Chevening year as I landed here in September 2022; and as I am reflecting now at the end, I did more than enough to give myself a full and rewarding experience in London. I was also the student body president at the University College of London, and that was a beautiful experience for me to be able to network…and also learn from the experiences of other people,” Kellier said on Friday after his graduation ceremony.
His family, he said, has been experiencing tremendous joy from his achievement.
“They are just so humbled. They have been supportive of me in all my endeavours, from as early as my formative years at prep school. I remember my mom, before I landed properly in the UK last September she wanted to know my graduation date because she had to rally up the tribe so that they could plan appropriately for the trip,” he said.
“They are all just beaming with pride to know that I have finished successfully. My sister, my father, my mommy, and my aunts are here supporting me. Many of my friends and colleagues were tuned in online to watch,” Kellier said.
While encouraging more young, talented Jamaicans to utilise the Chevening programme, Kellier stated that there is a lot to experience during a year away from home. He noted that those chosen for the scholarship are not only allowed to study but experience new cultures at the same time.
“It’s important, I think, for anyone going to study in any foreign country to go out there and explore,” he said.
While he prepares to pack up and head back to home soil, Kellier expressed gratitude for the opportunity to shine on unfamiliar ground.
“I have to thank the British high commissioner and the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office for this opportunity,” he said.
“UCL is a very dynamic and diverse university; you have people from all walks of life and different parts of the globe so to learn from and lead such a very distinguished and diverse group was an honour,” Kellier stated.