Former market vendor now college professor
At age 12, when many of his friends were either playing marbles, flying kites or riding their bicycles during holidays, Daren Johnson was selling onions, carrots and other produce in the Brown's Town market in St Ann.
Johnson shared that he grew up in a single-parent home with his mother, Selma Green Simpson, and endured many hungry days as she struggled to provide for him and his five siblings.
"I think around grade seven, I went to Brown's Town [market] and there was this lady, Miss Mary -- she is now deceased -- she was the one who gave me the start. She would give me a tray and I would walk the entire market and the business places and sell," said Johnson.
He recalled making about $200 daily. He earn enough money to help pay his school fee and purchase khaki uniforms for the new school term. In addition, young Johnson opened a savings account, as he was determined not to squander his earnings. His plan was to earn all he could so he could benefit from a good education.
"I had no other choice but to use education as that vehicle to make me and my family live in a better space," Johnson, 30, told THE STAR.
"My mother, she did everything that she had to do, but I don't know if it was my ambition and desire to help that allowed me to go out and provide for myself," Johnson said.
Young Johnson, who hails from Bun Hill in Middle Buxton near Brown's Town, had to juggle school and and work, even though he was often ridiculed for being a vendor. However, he did not allow the chattering class to break his spirit.
"There was this stigma attached to a high-school student selling in the market, as people kinda look down on you. ... But I was thinking way above my age and was able to look beyond that and focus on what I wanted. I didn't really care what people wanted to say because I was making my money. I could help my mother and myself," the Aabuthnott Gallimore High School past student said.
In addition to making money in the market, Johnson was laser-focused on his academics. He served as head boy, was a member of Aabuthnott Gallimore's Schools' Challenge Quiz team and 'All Together Sing chior.
"I was one of the little mawga ones on the front with Romain Virgo when we entered the All Together Sing competition," he recalled of his high-school days.
Johnson graduated Aabuthnott Gallimore with nine Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate subjects and later obtained a teaching diploma from Moneague Teacher's College, but was not contented to stop there. He migrated to the Unites States of America and enrolled in the bachelor in business administration programme at Munro College in New York. Johnson finished top of the class as he earned his first degree, but again he refused to settle. He went on to Pace University, also in New York, where he did a master's degree in human relations, after when he decided to pursue doctoral studies in adult education.
The former market vendor was, however, confronted with numerous hurdles that threatened his ability to have the letters EdD behind his name. One of the major issues he faced was being stripped of his status to stay in the US while he was doing his doctor of education degree (EdD) at Walden University in Minnesota.
"I did everything in the doctorate programme, except the dissertation. I have all those credits except that. In March 2020 I had to stop because I was going through some immigration problems abroad, which stripped me of my status in America. I didn't have any papers for some time," he said.
After the problems were resolved, Johnson decided to pursue a PhD in human resources at the North Central University.
Today, Johnson is professor at Howard Community College in Maryland, USA. He said that his time selling in the market helped prepared him for the direction his life has taken. He believes that through hard work and dedication, persons can achieve anything that they desire.
"If you have a goal, just keep at it. Success requires consistency and action. Circumstances are going to come and act as a barrier, but you have to have a made-up mind. That was what I learned whilst working in the market. The experience was humbling, and I think it helped to ground me as an individual," he said.