Q&A with ESCC Alum Carlens Jean


2021 Grad Answers Questions About His Educational Journey

How did you make your way to the Eastern Shore of Virginia and how did you discover ESCC?

I was born and raised in Haiti and grew up in a close-knit family that cherished education and believed in the power of knowledge to unlock opportunities. My parents, driven by their commitment to my future, decided to apply for a chance to further my education in the land of dreams, the United States.

In June 2018, my father took me to ESCC to register for ESL classes. The campus of Eastern Shore Community College (ESCC) welcomed me with open arms, offering a safehaven for my aspirations. ESCC quickly became my beacon of hope, a place where I could nurture my dreams and ambitions. 

What were your interests growing up?  Did they align with your interests now?

Growing up in Haiti I always had a passion for teaching, so I began tutoring local children to help provide them with the tools to build brighter futures. I was so inspired by witnessing their growth, the spark of understanding in their eyes, and the impact of knowledge on their lives.

As I honed my skills as a tutor, I saw many health challenges that my students faced such as limited access to healthcare, lack of proper nutrition, and inadequate living conditions. I realized that my passion for education could be merged with my deepening interest in medicine to create a powerful force for positive change.

Tell us about some of the challenges that ESCC helped you overcome.

English was my biggest barrier. My ESL instructors and their available resources helped me to learn quickly. I was so fortunate to have those wonderful people who always believed in me and set high expectations for me. From ESL to GED to earning my Associates Degree, the support that I received at ESCC was incredible.

Can you describe some of the individuals who were most influential and helpful at ESCC?

Everyone at ESCC had a great influence on my success, but I want to specifically mention Ms. Deborah Hennel (my GED instructor) who always called me Dr. Carlens. She gave me the necessary resources to pass my GED test as fast as possible.  My advisor and chemistry professor, Mrs. Sandra Thornton, wrote me great letters of recommendation and helped me to get into Florida International University Honors College with the transfer of a Bright Futures Scholarship.  My advisor Dr. Foxworthy was exceptional. He saw in me something I could not see myself. He fueled my passion for science and helped me navigate classes while I was working full-time. He also helped me with an internship at UVA’s Coastal Research Center in Oyster and another internship at an ODU summer research program.

Describe your path at ESCC and since you graduated.

I tell people that I am an ESCC triple alumni! At Eastern Shore Community College, I learned English, earned my GED, then my Associate of Arts and Sciences degree. I transferred to Florida International University (Honors College) where I received my BA in chemistry in the Pre-Med track. I am currently doing research at Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine in the department of immunology and nanomedicine lab and preparing to go to Kansas City University Medical School for the next step on my journey.

What advice would you give students on shaping their own future?

Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Taking calculated risks allows for growth and can lead to unexpected opportunities and experiences. Be prepared for challenges and setbacks. Success often involves overcoming obstacles. Maintain a resilient attitude and keep moving forward. Lastly, be patient:  achieving your desired future might take time. Be patient and trust the process. Overnight success is rare, and consistent effort is key.