Venant sitting in my office with his published research paper open on my desktop.

It was spring of 2011, when I started teaching my second batch of students, the introductory biotechnology course at the community college in Baltimore. This batch of students was not as enthusiastic as my first batch. As a teacher, I love interacting with students, so when the students are quite, I still teach but it’s less fun. 

The only student in this batch who talked, and talked a lot was Venant. He surely talked on behalf of all students. He had a lot of questions some general, some specific. He had comments and in nutshell he had a lot going on in his mind. He would even say sorry I keep asking a lot of questions, which I reassured him was quite ok. I was kind of new at teaching and he was kind of new in biotechnology so we might have been nervous yet excited in our own ways. The semester passed, he did well, I had a new batch, and things moved. 

Being an adjunct, I did not have much chance to follow up with my earlier batch of students. So I met him just by chance in a training workshop, which I was helping conduct and there he was as a student assistant. I asked him how he was doing and he said “terrible”, he had not gained much confidence in lab work and the big question in his mind was “Can I do it” and “Is biotech for me”. 

I think it’s important to mention here that Venant was associated with a number of careers including journalism, films and more. Clearly he was here for love of science and now it was not working out for him. I just despised, to see this young man who has changed several careers questioning himself yet again. I told him just one thing, I think I have the solution to your problems and you just have to trust me on that.

Fast forward a year later, I was working full time in the college and Venant was back in my class for two weeks in a brainstorming workshop in cold winter of January of 2012. He was the same guy, with lots of questions but with a big question mark about himself. He had tough time paying bills and nothing seemed too sure. When we did the workshop, I made sure from my end that I let him know how capable he was and how he did not recognize his own talents and how with practice on lab work he would be just very good. At the end of workshop, there was a change. I told him lets move from “Can I do it” to “I can do it”. He sort of agreed to it. 

I soon placed Venant in a lab for an internship though despite all apprehensions and within a few days to his surprise, his supervisor planned to hire him. The confidence, the pay and the job got it all together back for him. One day Venant came to me and said” I have a problem”. I said to him “Now, what ?”. He told me he had got admission in a bachelor’s program in Medical Research and Technology at the University of Maryland Baltimore and he also had another offer of a research lab tech job and a potential scholarship at another university. I said to him these are good problems to have, when you get the option to pick what you want to do and we laughed about it.

Now 3 years later, Venant is about to graduate from his bachelors program to become a Medical Laboratory Scientist. He has finished his job after years of success and has a research paper with his name as first author. I think he found his passion, I think he found a respect for himself as a coveted alumini of our program, I think he found a way to believe in himself and to say to himself, I can cross all the hurdles and I can build a career for myself that I dreamed from my passion for Science. I think as a teacher he made me feel proud, proud of his questions, his journey and his future as well.

The picture above was taken once while Venant was in my office. He is aware that I am sharing his story with the world. We hope this story is an inspiration to many other students and also a motivation for many teachers around the globe.

Story Credit: Amrita Madabushi. Or rather Dr. Amrita Madabushi is one of our regular storytellers. She is also a teacher, an assistant professor at Baltimore City Community college. She has been passionate about science and teaching science all her life. This story reflects her love for science, teaching and story telling all at once.