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Members In the News, NSLS Member Spotlight, NSLS Success Stories, Leadership Development

How This Young Professor Stays Resilient in the Face of Adversity

At twenty-eight, Daren Johnson of the Northcentral University chapter, became the youngest full-time professor at Howard Community College in Maryland. We featured his remarkable achievement in our November Members in the News and our 2021 Year in Review.

Having grown up in a poor household in rural Jamaica, Daren latched onto education as a way to achieve his goals and find success. 

He holds a bachelor's in business administration from Monroe College, a master's in human resource management from Pace University, a diploma in education from Moneague College, and is currently enrolled at Northcentral University for his PhD in human resource management. 

In his own words: "Education is a way out of poverty." 

A positive attitude and giving back also helps. He received the New York State Assembly Award for Education and the United Bridge Builders Mission Award for Excellence in Education and Community Development, pairing his passion for education and helping others. 

"As a teacher at Queen's first charter school, I had the opportunity of molding and impacting lives. After serving for two years in the classroom, I was promoted to an administrator role responsible for human resources and student registry. One of my proudest accomplishments while working at this school was obtaining a grant that provided the Queens community with a brand-new playground from Delta Airlines and Kaboom Inc." 

Having persistence is a good trait to have. Daren negotiated and lobbied for funds for that same school, eventually leading the district congressman to help contribute over $500,000.


It's important to remember your roots and those who’ve helped you along the way. For Daren, that means Jamaica. 

"While at Pace University, I journeyed back to Jamaica to show my appreciation to those teachers who helped shape my character. In my name, I also established a yearly grant to fund the studies of the highest achieving students in business studies."

He accomplished all of this while still in his twenties. 

After completing his studies at Pace, he began his journey teaching in higher ed, starting under the tutelage of Dr. Ahmed Eshra, who saw something special in him. This mentor encouraged and helped Daren take on his role as professor at Howard Community College. 

What were the leadership skills that helped Daren accomplish so much at such a young age? He attributes his success to several factors. 

"Agility, network-building, humility, courage, authenticity, and having an innate drive." 

These qualities and a hunger for education make for a great recipe. He looks up to leaders who embody these characteristics and finds that he’s most inspired by women in leadership roles. 

"There are so many leaders I look up to: Michelle Obama, Dr. Karen Valbrun, Dr. Taneisha Ingleton, Attorney Linda Mercurio. I look up to them because they taught me that it’s not where you come from that determines how successful you are, but hard work and commitment to excellence. I also look up to them because female leadership takes heart and courage. It’s not a linear process for them." 


Authenticity was one attribute Daren mentioned when talking about leadership skills that helped him achieve his goals. When put in social or professional situations, we can try to adapt by changing who we are. Daren, along with other leaders, says this isn't a good idea. 

"Remain unabashedly you. Never dim your light to please anybody. Shine bright and take up space wherever you go. In this unprecedented era, you have to be more nimble, agile, and flexible. Re-engineer your mindset to stay relevant and be impactful in a quest to be the great leader you are destined to be."

Ultimately, he sees leadership as getting to work and giving back to others. This symbiotic relationship of improving yourself while guiding those around you is what takes a leader to the next level.

"Leadership is the act of not being afraid to roll up your sleeves every once in a while. It’s when you take ownership of something and see that it’s completed well. Leadership means you lift others around you up." 

Daren is going to continue to be true to himself as he pursues his goals. This means more education because knowledge is what got him to where he is today. He plans on finishing his PhD in human resource management and then attending law school. 

"I loathe injustice, so my end goal is to help push the needle of equity and fairness in immigration and family law in the US and Jamaica." 

By being himself, always learning, and seeking to help others, Daren will continue to lead and inspire. 

Looking to become a leader while never losing sight of who you truly are? Gain insight and a dose of motivation in our Motivational Mondays episode with Dr. Joan Fallon, who discusses what it takes to be your most authentic self.