Success Story November 26, 2021 at 02:00 pm

How this Jamaican rose from selling onions to being the youngest professor at a U.S. college at 28

Mildred Europa Taylor | Head of Content

Mildred Europa Taylor November 26, 2021 at 02:00 pm

November 26, 2021 at 02:00 pm | Success Story

Daren Johnson is the youngest full-time professor at Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland, USA. Photo: The Gleaner

Daren Johnson has said he has nostalgic recollections of growing up in Bun Hill in the deep rural community of Middle Buxton in St Ann, Jamaica. He knew the perils of being a child born into a poor family, thus, he was determined to escape poverty and turn things around for his family. But he realized that he could only do so through education and hard work.

So as a young boy going to school, he sold sweets in church and would also sell them to his cousins and neighbors. He also sold onions in order to earn lunch money for school. But he said he always knew these issues were “circumstantial barriers”, so he did not let them deter him from reaching his goals.

He recalled in an interview with The Gleaner that while selling onions, he met a businesswoman who saw that he had potential and took the time to teach him the skills of a sales clerk. That enabled him to stop selling onions and develop a love for business education.

“Special thanks to Miss Sandra Nam of Nam’s Hardware, who saw greatness in me when I walked into her store to sell her onions. Every Saturday I would go to her store, until she decided to show me how to write bills as a sales clerk; then I stopped selling onions and apples for Miss Mary and her daughter, Nicky, to whom I am eternally grateful,” Johnson told The Gleaner.

A food and nutrition teacher at his high school also helped feed him in school and gave him almost all the support he needed during his high school years.

Today, thanks to their benevolence and Johnson’s hard work and determination, he is now the youngest full-time professor at Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland, U.S. He is also studying to complete his Ph.D. in human resources at American College of Education.

While in Jamaica, Johnson attended Aabuthnott Gallimore High School, Moneague College, and the University of the West Indies (UWI) before enrolling at Athabasca University in Canada, and Monroe College, Pace University, and the University of South Florida in the US. A gifted student, his certifications and degrees include a bachelor in business administration from Monroe College, graduating summa cum laude; a Master of Science degree in human resource management from Pace University; and a diploma in education from Moneague College, in conjunction with the Joint Board of Teacher Education, UWI, The Gleaner reported.

Johnson, who left Jamaica for the U.S. in 2013, and now teaching at Howard Community College, said he also serves as course coordinator and sits on several high-level committees which enables him to share, across the college, his expertise in human resources.

“In addition, I function as a Step-Up coach, and I serve my department on several committees, namely, the Diversity and E-learning committees, among others,” he told The Gleaner.

What’s more, Johnson mentors and assists students by providing them with the support and guidance necessary for completing their different academic programs at the college. Currently, he also teaches as an adjunct lecturer online at Montego Bay Community College. Despite having a full-time job, he has also managed to complete all coursework in his Ph.D. with straight As. After completing his Ph.D., he said he intends to attend law school to help reform family and immigration laws in Jamaica and the U.S.

At the moment, Johnson finds fulfillment in giving back to his community. In 2015, he established four grants to help the top boy and girl in business studies at his high school — Aabuthnott Gallimore — and for top students at Muirhouse Primary School, PDL Academy in St Ann, and Beaulah All-Age School in Clarendon.

Johnson is grateful to God for bringing him this far. “I am also grateful to my son, who motivates me, and my mother, who tried her very best in her role as my primary caregiver.”

He has also thanked his teachers, professors, other members of his family and friends who supported and guided him along the way to greatness.

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