Daren Johnson motivated by his son
Growing up in a single-parent household and having to go without necessities on some occasions has empowered Daren Johnson to not only attain a better life for himself, but also to help those who may be in similar positions as he was.
The 25-year-old migrated to the United States in 2013, but not before attaining nine Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects at Aabuthnott Gallimore High School and a diploma in education from Moneague College, St Ann.
“I wanted to go to UWI (The University of the West Indies) to study law and I was accepted at Mico to study education, but I couldn’t afford either of them,” Johnson said. “It was my teacher, Mrs Elaine Brown Taylor, and mother, Miss Selma Green, who suggested that I go to Moneague College.”
Johnson stated that even when he went to Moneague, he was almost not accepted in the education programme because it was already full. However, his grades were good enough, and the administrators later accepted him to study in the teacher-education programme, and that is where his love for education started.
“After I completed the programme at Moneague, I taught briefly at Brown’s Town High School before migrating and becoming a nurse’s assistant in Maryland for about a year,” Johnson explained.
He was soon promoted to assistant member care director due to his qualifications. He had duties of a human resources officer. After, Johnson moved to New York, where he attended Monroe College in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in business management.
“I started Monroe College in January 2014 and graduated at the top of my class by June 2015,” he shared with The Gleaner.
Johnson later got into teaching at an elementary school but soon enough embarked on another academic journey. He had the goal of being a professor but was told by Monroe College that he had to get a master’s degree in order to do this, and that is what Johnson did. He pursued his master’s degree in human resource management and graduated with high commendations from Pace University in New York.
When asked what his day was like during that time, Johnson responded, “My day consisted of teaching during the day, going to school at nights, and I was also a teaching/research graduate assistant, where I would do research and assist with teaching human resource courses to undergraduates.”
He further explained that he had to take on the responsibility of graduate assistant because it paid part of his tuition.
“I had to get it all done. I would study on the train, and I was never really into partying, so my weekends were filled with studying for school and prepping for my teaching jobs,” Johnson said.
Johnson explained that he wanted to give others a helping hand towards their dreams, so he started giving back to his alma mater, Aabuthnott Gallimore, and other schools around St Ann.
“I wanted to empower and encourage students to stay focused on their future, so I do my little part to help them,” Johnson said.
He gives a scholarship to the top performer in the business subjects at Aabuthnott Gallimore; two scholarships at Muirhouse Primary and Junior High School, one for leadership and school involvement and the other for sports and ethics and a scholarship for the top GSAT, now PEP, language arts performer at PDL Academy. Johnson has also had a hand in the Jamaica Intensive Reading Clinic, which has an islandwide reach of over 2,000 students being taught to read.
Johnson shows that attaining one’s dream is possible as he is currently a professor at Monroe College. However, he has not stopped there as he is pursuing his PhD at America College of Education in educational administration and leadership.
“As part of my PhD dissertation, I am hoping to help the Jamaican Government curb teacher shortage, help teachers’ college develop robust quality, assurance processes, and provide strategic initiatives to improve educational leadership in Jamaica,” he stated. “I also hope to have online sessions in a coaching role to help those who need help with résumés and interview preparation.”
Johnson is always giving back and, as a result, he was recognised and was given the New York State Award for excellence in education and contribution to community development.
As a first-generation college child, Johnson encourages the younger members of his family to not give up on their passion. Additionally, he states that he is “intrinsically motivated to pursue his goals and be in a position to drive positive social change”. He is also motivated by his three-year-old son, S’wayne, who he says pushes him out of his comfort zone.