Two generations, one classroom: A mother and son’s unique journey to DC


Cheralee Cleary has fond memories of walking her son, James, to his first days of elementary school but never expected that nearly two decades later, their roles would be reversed.

For 32 years, Cheralee worked as a registered nursing assistant in a group home for adults with developmental disabilities. As her license renewal with the College of Nurses approached in 2021, Cheralee started exploring her options and even enrolled in a refresher program at a different college at the peak of the pandemic.

“I was feeling pretty defeated and that’s when James suggested Durham College,” she said.

Already enrolled in Durham College's (DC) Pre-Health Sciences Pathway to Certificate program, this time it was James who stepped up to ease his mother's first-day jitters.

Durham College was the first place I felt at home. Right away, I noticed how accessible everything was on campus. No matter who I talked to – a fellow student, an instructor or the information desk – everyone was happy to help.

– James Cleary, Practical Nursing student

And their DC story doesn’t end there.

Building on the momentum of their Pre-Health Sciences program, in 2023 James and Cheralee enrolled in DC’s Practical Nursing program and continue to reap the benefits of studying – and living – under the same roof.

“When we study together, we like to knit pick each other’s answers,” said James. “It helps us remember key information for tests and let’s us have a bit of fun with it.”

It’s hard to stop being a mom at times, but Durham College makes it so easy to go back to school at any age. The professors are so approachable and the number of resources available to you make the transition so smooth.

– Cheralee Cleary, Practical Nursing student

When asked about their plans after graduation, Cheralee looks forward to putting her new skills to work in long-term nursing care and building on her wealth of experience. As for James, his future specialty has yet to be determined, although surgical nursing tops his list these days.

“I’d like to taste the rainbow – I want to go everywhere.”

For now, they’re content with their friendly competitions and working toward the special moment when they’ll both cross the Convocation stage together next year.

“Backbones of recovery” – How one international student is turning his experience into a rewarding nursing career

Student Spotlight: Darshan Patel

Darshan Patel has always been inspired by the medical field, but it wasn’t until he experienced a family member’s illness that he knew it would become his career.

It’s been nearly two years since Darshan arrived in Canada from India for an exciting new opportunity in Durham College’s (DC) Practical Nursing program.

Recently, we met up with Darshan, who is starting his second year in September, to learn about his DC experience and what he hopes to achieve in the future as a nurse in Ontario.


What inspired you to pursue a career in nursing?

As I watched the care and compassion that the nurses provided my loved one, I realized that they were the backbone of his recovery. It amazed me how much of an impact they had on his well-being and how dedicated they were to making him feel comfortable in his time of need. That experience, and my desire to help others, led me to pursue nursing.

Why did you choose the Practical Nursing program at DC?

After deciding that I wanted to enrol in Practical Nursing, I started to research colleges. I was immediately drawn to Durham College’s hands-on opportunities and labs. I had already completed DC’s Pre-Health Sciences Pathway to Advanced Diplomas and Degrees program so the fact that I was already familiar with the campus made it an easy decision.

How has DC supported you along the way?

My experience at DC has been great. I love how the college supports students through a number of helpful services, like DC Hired. As an international student, when I moved to Canada, I was unsure how to find employment. DC Hired helped me create a cover letter and land a job that worked around my schedule.

I also worked as a DC content creator for the college’s social media team. The flexible hours made it easy to work around my studies and I learned how to network and create content for different areas of the college. When I filmed content for Open House, I had the opportunity to interview different faculty members and learn about various programs offered at DC.

What has been your favourite part of your program?

My favourite part of my program so far has been the clinical placements, where I get to put everything I learn in the classroom into practice everything I learn and interact with patients in a real healthcare setting. Working alongside experienced nurses, I can observe their techniques and learn from them while thinking critically and developing my communication skills and professional bedside manner.

What advice would you give to those considering DC or students about to begin your program?

If you are on the fence or considering other colleges, I could not recommend Durham College enough. Along with the DC’s bustling campus, Durham Region is a growing economy with so many opportunities.

It has been an incredible journey so far. Every day, as I witness firsthand the difference my classmates and I can make in someone’s life through our care and expertise, I am reminded of why I chose this profession.


If you’re interested in a nursing career like Darshan, DC has the program for you. Here are some of our programs that will equip you with the skills you need to make an impact in this highly demanded sector.