Jamaican student set high goals at young age
April 4, 2017
Failing to plan is planning to fail which Tarique Plummer wasn’t prepared to do.
In primary school, he made the decision to be academically competent, engaged in school-related activities, respect authority and be a leader.
When Plummer entered St. Mary High School in northeast Jamaica, he set yearly targets accompanied by inspirational quotes.
‘The pen is mightier than the sword’ and ‘What you put in is what you get out’ were some of the favourite lines adorning his bedroom walls.
The goals in high school were to become first in class, achieve a gold medal in a competition and become a prefect and head boy.
“When I got up each morning, I recited a quote before heading to school,” said Plummer who was recently elected chair of the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union board of directors. “I was determined to succeed.”
He accomplished those goals with added motivation.
Word got back to Plummer, who finished behind Oshane Panton in successive years as the top student, that he couldn't compete academically with his rival.
“One of our friends told me that and I decided I was going to up the ante and study harder,” he said.
Hard work and resolve paid dividends for Plummer who won the award in Grade Nine ahead of Panton who is pursuing human resources management and Chinese studies at the University of the West Indies.
“We became good friends, but sometimes you need a kick to get you going even more,” he said.
Plummer’s mother also played a pivotal role in positioning her son on the right track.
She made him sit in front of the television on Sunday nights to watch ‘Profile’, Jamaica’s longest running half-hour show featuring successful people who overcame odds.
“I wanted to be just like them and I was driven at a young age,” he pointed out. “I started watching that show when I was in Grade Five. By the time I got to high school, I was focussed and I had a vision and plan.”
After graduation, Plummer set his sights on attending an international university. He ruled out Australia because of distance, England because of high tuition fees and the United States for what he perceived to be the unfair treatment of Blacks.
“That left Canada, as a safe place with a decent educational system, as my choice,” he said. “I had never been to this country before and I didn’t have any family or other connections here.”
Plummer, who grew up in rural Windsor Castle in Portland, did extensive research to decide which university he should attend.
“I looked at the rankings and, based on academics, student involvement, experiences and reviews, I picked about 35 schools,” he said. “I decided I wanted to go to a university that values me as a person, so I went on their websites, read their program requirements and details and asked questions about recruitment and overall campus experiences. I did this because I wanted to be seen and treated as an individual with potential.”
The list dwindled to Wilfrid Laurier and Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
“They were the only two that kept responding to my questions,” Plummer said. “At the end of the day, Wilfrid Laurier won me over because they have student employees who communicate frequently with prospective students. The one assigned to me was in touch regularly and I developed a professional relationship with her. The university actually recognizes the key to recruitment and because they stand for something so significant, I wanted to go there. It’s a school I had never heard of before in a country I never went to, but it was my unanimous choice and I was confident things would work out in my favour.”
The decision to attend a foreign university was made easier when Plummer was awarded a $25,000 renewable scholarship to cover his four years of undergraduate studies in biochemistry/biotechnology.
“At St. Mary, I was part of all the clubs, I took part in all the competitions and did anything that needed to be done at school,” he said. “I guess Wilfrid Laurier looked at my academic qualifications, school engagement and leadership potential and decided I was deserving of an international student scholarship.”
In the biochemistry/biotechnology program, heavy emphasis is placed on the health and pharmaceutical sciences which constitute more than 50 per cent of the total activity in biochemical research and biotechnology in Canada.
“This is one of the toughest university courses, but it was not going to prevent me from becoming immersed in student activities on campus,” Plummer noted. “I wanted the best of both worlds so I got up at 2 a.m. and did as much academic work as I could so that I could find the time during the day to be involved in clubs, meetings and other events on campus.”
In his freshman year, he was the vice-president of Bricker House Council training & development and the Caribbean Students Association, the Laurier Chemistry Association first-year executive representative, Laurier International ambassador and an English mentor.
He also spent his first year residing alongside science students in a Residence Learning Community which is a themed residence setting for students who share a common interest, major or coursework; working in the dining hall, writing for the university newspaper and serving as a radio journalist for Radio Laurier.
The heavy workload continued in his second year.
Plummer joined the Science Students’ Association as vice-president of research & development and was an instructional assistant in the chemistry department, Ontario Science Students’ Association director and the university students’ union club governance co-ordinator.
In his junior year, he’s one of three student representatives on the Laurier Board of Governors, a research & conference planning facilitator with the Lazaridis School of Business & Economics, a residence don and the athletic centre sports club co-ordinator.
When he completes his undergraduate degree next year, Plummer plans to run for student union president, pursue a Master’s in Operations & Decision Sciences or become an international recruiter at Wilfrid Laurier.
“I love this university so much I believe I could be a great ambassador for them,” he said.
Plummer, who is a Seventh-day Adventist, remains goal-driven.
He plans to head the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CCSIS) in the next 10 years.
“I will be returning to Jamaica, but that will have to wait for at least the next 20 years,” he said. “Right now, I want to gain as much knowledge and international experience so I really can be a valuable asset to my country when I go back.”