When Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, broke the news to Jelani Munroe that he is the 2018 Rhodes Scholar, he was very elated, not only for himself but his entire family and those who have nurtured him over the years.
According to Jelani Munroe, a 23-year-old graduate of Stanford University holding a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Public Policy (Development and Growth) with honours, copping the 2018 Rhodes Scholarship Award took much effort.
He had special praise for those who have sacrificed for him to be afforded opportunities over the years, primarily his parents, Erica Boswell Munroe and Claude Munroe.
“I’ve had teachers call me professor before I knew what a professor was. People who saw me fall, gave me a chance to bounce back again. I have a tremendous debt of gratitude to Campion College for the belief that was shown and the opportunities to express myself in all sorts of different co-curricular activities, not just in the classroom,” he tells JIS News.
“I don’t think I could have had a better preparation before going to Stanford, so it certainly is a village effort, and at every point, I definitely give thanks to those people,” Jelani, who is a former Head Boy of Campion College, says.
The Governor-General made the grand announcement of Jelani Munroe’s victory on Thursday, November 16 at King’s House in the presence of the other nine finalists: Shaniel May, Peta-Gay Facey, Zahra Henry, Jevon Henry, Jacob Phillips, Gabrielle Pierre, Marissa Webber, Stefan Richards and Keenan Falconer.
The Rhodes Scholarship is not the first Jelani Munroe is receiving. Since he was a student at Mona Preparatory School, he has been aiming for scholarships and was awarded a Government of Jamaica Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) Merit Scholarship in 2005. He also pursued his undergraduate degree at Stanford University on a scholarship.
Jelani has chosen to attend the University of Oxford in 2018. “The plan is to study for a Master of Philosophy in Development Studies. It’s an interdisciplinary programme that combines some history, some sociology, some philosophy and also some economics,” he tells JIS News.
Jelani Munroe says his mother ensures that he achieves the best results in his studies, adding that she even ensured that he was well prepared for the interview for the Rhodes Scholarship, checking everything he wore, including his shoelaces.
“My mother is a wonderful, vibrant [and] run-the-house kind of lady. When I came, she wanted to make sure I had the best shot and that nothing distracted from that, so even the little things – like my shoe laces; she thought they weren’t in place, so she untied them and redid them,” he says.
When Mrs. Boswell Munroe arrived to collect him at King’s House, she was extremely happy.
“When I came, I saw his face and I knew. I saw joy on him. He has been a very good student from he was a little boy. He has always been a very good student wherever he is. I like to think of Jelani as a very nice person, more than a bright person. He’s very photographic with his memory. He always does well,” Mrs. Boswell Munroe tells JIS News.
Although his mother is his cheerleader, Jelani says his father has been his role model over the years.
“He is very much in the picture. I’ve recently come to say, in many ways I’m instinctively my mother, but I’ve grown more like my father. He has been a rock, very supportive. He has modeled decency for me among Jamaican men. There was never a night that he wasn’t home. He was the one who took us to school. I love him very dearly. He’s just as loving, but not as expressive as my mother. He is the quieter of the two,” he says.
Jelani says he plans to return and give back to Jamaica after completing his studies at Oxford.
His other awards and accomplishments include being President, Stanford Caribbean Students’ Association between September 2013 and June 2014; Director of Advocacy, International Undergraduate Community Board at Stanford University; Student Council President, Vice President and Regional Representative, Campion College in 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively; President and Team Captain, Campion College Debating Society; Financial Officer, Stanford Circle K between 2013 and 2014 and Lead/Protagonist, Stanford BLACKstage in 2017.
The Rhodes Scholarships are postgraduate awards supporting outstanding all-round students at the University of Oxford, and providing transformative opportunities for exceptional individuals.
The Rhodes Trust provides the Rhodes Scholarships in partnership with Second Century Founder, John McCall MacBain and other generous benefactors. A class of 89 Scholars is selected each year from Australia, Bermuda, Canada, China, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica and the Commonwealth Caribbean, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Southern Africa (including South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia and Swaziland), United Arab Emirates, United States, Zambia and Zimbabwe.