The 2017 valedictorian Zachary Phillips, (right) accepting his scroll for the Bachelor of Law (first class honours). (Picture by Sandy Pitt.)
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Zachary Phillips, who has described himself as a true regionalist, has been the University of the West Indies’ valedictorian twice over. He was named in 2015, and again at last weekend’s graduation ceremony at the Cave Hill Campus.
The Antiguan first graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and law in 2015.
“The first time crossing the stage was the easy part. Giving the speech back then I was definitely more nervous than I was today. I remember distinctly that my right leg was trembling the entire speech, so I had to hide it behind the podium,” he said in an interview with EASY after crossing the stage.
“[Today] I was definitely more comfortable than I was last time. I still made a few mistakes . . . . This speech I made more of an effort to make it sound like Zachary, rather than how I think a valedictorian speech should sound.
“So because it sounded like Zachary, it was easier to get into the groove. I think it went down well. A lot of people came up to me afterward and said wonderful speech, and some people even asked for a clip of it, so it was a lot of positive feedback,” he said, smiling brightly.
After spending five years on the Cave Hill Campus, he graduated this time around with a Bachelor of Law (first class honours). However, he’s not qualified to practice law in the courtroom just yet.
The next step for the double valedictorian is to complete a master’s degree in international law at Queen Mary University in London before returning to the Caribbean. He left the island last Sunday bound for London.
“After I complete my studies in London, I plan to head off to law school in Jamaica so I can pass the bar and be qualified to practice law. My plan is to do it all now, so when I start my life and get accustomed, I don’t have to stop for anything. The north islands go to [Mona Campus] Jamaica, and the southern islands go to Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad and Tobago to complete their law degrees,” he explained.
Describing his five-year journey at Cave Hill as pleasurable, he said that during that time he realised how many similarities Caribbean people have.
“I’d never been to Barbados before UWI, so I didn’t really know what to expect coming to this island. I lived on the Frank Worrell Hall, where a lot of non-nationals lived as well, and I think that really cemented my involvement in Cave Hill life. It was a really pleasurable experience for me to meet so many people from the Caribbean, all of them my age. We may have been studying different things, but we had so much in common.
“I remember one night we were sitting discussing high school memories, and we realised in that room we all took the same exam for CXC and CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exam). You say it out loud:’Yes, I did CXC – Caribbean Examination Council’, but when you sit down in a room full of ten strangers, and you all remember the struggle you had with number one on the sociology exam, and you could equate it, it was very consoling to realise how similar we all are,” he reminisced.
Though the journey has been a tough one financially, he aims to excel to especially make his mum, who is his number one supporter, proud of him.
“My first degree was funded by the Antiguan Government, and the second degree I applied for a scholarship within UWI, and got it in the second year for one year. The law degree was funded by my mother, and now the master’s it’s all my mum, so I have to make sure and ace everything,” he said, laughing.
After completing his studies, the budding lawyer, who turns 24 next month, says he intends to return to the Caribbean and solidify his roots as a true Caribbean man.
“I want to go into international law. The ideal plan would be to work for CARICOM or OECS [Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States], or maybe a UN [United Nations] body within the region. I’m a regionalist at heart. My family includes Vincentians and Grenadians. We have family in all these different islands, and I really do see the Caribbean islands as my home, so I would use the knowledge I gain directly to benefit the Caribbean in some capacity,” he said. (RA)