Honouring her son through education: Danita Algar’s inspirational journey to DC

Category: Mature learners

Category: Student Profiles

Graduate Spotlight – Danita Algar

Having been a stay-at-home mother for many years, returning to the classroom was the last place Danita Algar pictured herself, but as a parent, it’s hard to think of anything you wouldn’t do for your child.

So, when Danita’s son, Ben, asked her to continue his legacy as a Durham College (DC) carpentry student, her immediate answer was “yes.”

This June, Danita will cross the Convocation stage to receive her diploma in Carpentry – Building Construction Technician – a goal she has spent the last two years working towards in honour of Ben, who passed away at the age of 20 after a courageous battle with cancer.

Ben graduated from high school and went on to complete DC’s Trades Fundamentals program, igniting a passion for carpentry and led to his enrolment in the Carpentry – Building Construction Technician program in September 2020.


Less than two months into his first semester, Ben received his diagnosis and despite his efforts, had to put his studies on hold.

Quiet in nature but strong in character, it didn’t take long for Ben to build lasting friendships with his classmates and professors. Often found in the front row, Ben would share his inspirations and goals – one of which was to help build his family’s retirement home in New Brunswick and establish himself as a carpenter on the east coast.

“There’s a student in every class that seems to have something extra special to offer and Ben was one of them,” said Don Fishley, professor, Durham College.

Don and Ben’s friendship extended beyond the classroom. Don regularly checked in with the family and, in June 2021, Ben invited Don to visit him at home.

“I had the chance to meet Ben’s entire family and spend a few hours with him,” said Don. “What I didn’t realize was that Ben would pass away shortly after that visit. Looking back, it was a really special moment to be a part of.”


Ben on his first day of the Carpentry –
Building Construction Technician program.

Nearly two years later, Don’s relationship with the Algar family has only grown stronger. Following Ben’s passing, Danita received a call from DC notifying her that the college would transfer Ben’s place in the program to her – all she had to do was register.

“It was all very fresh and I needed some time to think about it,” said Danita. “We travelled to our property in New Brunswick where we held a memorial for Ben and I immediately thought – how can I not do this for him? This is what he wanted.”

Standing in the front row of her first shop class, Danita felt overwhelmed but remembers Don greeting her with a big hug and saying: “You’re going to be okay.”

In all her classes, Danita took on a caretaker role with her classmates, baking cookies and helping them with their notes. Driven by her desire to fulfil her son’s legacy, Danita became Don’s highest-ranking student, receiving 100 per cent on every assignment.

Img of Danita and Don

Danita and Don in shop class.

“I don’t think it’s possible to tell this story without Don,” said Danita. “He’s been a crucial part of this journey. There were many times I struggled but Don was always there to remember every birthday and anniversary.”

With two younger children – Grace, 20 and Hayden, 18 – Danita continues to keep Ben’s memory alive, and credits spending time with her younger classmates as something that has helped her cope.

When asked about her plans for the future, Danita said she is inspired to stay connected to the college, whether through further education or as a DC instructor, helping other learners contribute to their futures. As for the skills she developed at DC, Danita has already applied them at home and hopes to play a role in the construction of her New Brunswick build as a way to continue honouring Ben.

“Durham College has saved my life. I can’t say enough good about the college. It was there for Ben and he loved it, and going on his behalf, I found out why he loved it so much.”