Graduate profile

Here are the personal stories of a few of our many graduates. 

Jordan Kerton: Therapeutic Recreation Diploma, 2005. 

When it comes to peak experiences, Jordan Kerton's climb up Mount Kilimanjaro with her client Brock Metcalf and an off-road wheelchair tops them all. 

Kerton, Metcalf and team set a world wheelchair altitude record by climbing to the 19,000-foot Stella Point on the fabled African mountain. The climb was sponsored by the BC Association for Community Living to raise funds and awareness to help people living with disabilities in their communities.

"We made the climb to build awareness that anything is possible, like Brock wanting to climb this mountain," said Kerton."He had this dream and it came true."

Kerton met Metcalf through her work as a Therapeutic Recreation practitioner and Care Worker. When Metcalf - who has cerebral palsy - was selected by the North Shore Disability Resource Centre to make the climb, Kerton worked closely with him to make it a reality. 

Kerton assembled a five-member climb team. Metcalf used a trail rider (an off-road wheelchair provided by the Disability Foundation) during the nine-day climb in February. The expedition gave new meaning to the term "steep learning curve."

"It was difficult," said Kerton. "I did Brock's care work during the climb and it was quite the adventure. It was a huge learning experience for me."

Another major learning experience Kerton met was the Therapeutic Recreation Program at Douglas College. The North Vancouver resident had been working as a private, in-home caregiver, mostly with people with spinal cord injuries, before entering the program in 2003.

The program trains Therapeutic Recreation Practitioners (TRP) like Kerton to work with people who have disabilities or illnesses that prevent them from having a healthy leisure lifestyle. TRPs provide meaningful leisure activities that help their clients achieve the quality of life they deserve.

For Kerton, the program was a perfect fit.

"I've always been athletic and I enjoy working with my clients. I thought I wanted to be a nurse, but that changed when I felt the excitement of helping someone do something they thought they'd never do again, like go swimming," says Kerton."It's a life-transforming experience to help people do the things they want to do and to realize that life doesn't end after an injury."

Kate Nordmann: Therapeutic Recreation Diploma, 1994. 

Kate Nordmann was a single mom, stuck in a dead-end job in the 'Pink-Collar Ghetto' when she realized that some hard work could lead to a lifetime of play.

So she quit her job, got a student loan and enrolled in the Therapeutic Recreation Program at Douglas College.

"I started at Douglas College the same day my son started kindergarten - we started on that journey together," said Nordmann.

Since then, Nordmann's journey has taken her to the top of her profession. She has worked as the Director of Recreation and Volunteers at various long-term care facilities and served as the President of the BC Therapeutic Recreation Association.

Therapeutic Recreation helps ill, disabled or older people experience the full benefits of leisure in their lives. By using a variety of techniques, practitioners help their clients to meet fitness goals, give them social interaction and raise their self esteem. 

"It's such a gratifying job," says Nordmann, a Burnaby resident. "I'm really fortunate in that my job really has a balance between administrative work and hands-on work. I still get to do some direct programming with the residents." 

Hands-on experience is what Nordmann got in the Therapeutic Recreation Program between 1992 and 1994. The academic theory was backed up by three practicums. Nordmann did hers at Children's Hospital, a long-term care facility and an adult daycare.

"The practical experience was invaluable," she says. "It really prepared me for the long-term care I'm providing."

With supportive classmates and professional instructors helping her, Nordmann felt her confidence and sense of self-worth rise with each assignment.

"One of the things that really amazed me about the program is how it allowed me to grow as an individual. My own self-esteem, my sense of my own abilities rose and every time I got another paper back that had been really successful, that sense of accomplishment was really huge. It was a real self-esteem booster for me," says Nordmann.

"I went in every day excited about learning something new."

Nordmann did contract and casual work after she graduated in May, 1994. Within three months, she had a full-time job at Pinegrove. She became Recreation and Volunteer Services Manager of the facility within three years. She's continued to study and in 2004 she got Bachelor of Technology in Management from BCIT.

Best of all, she gets to work with students who were just like her when she started out. As a mentor, she enjoys giving them advice and guidance.

"Students can take the education offered by the program and build on it. Even if you're not walking into a perfect, full-time position right out of school, if you're able to take the training that you have and be creative, you can build a job for yourself," says Nordmann.

"In terms of moving into a truly gratifying field, if you have a passion for people and a joy of life and play, this is a field you're going to really grow in."

Josh Friesen: Bachelor of Therapeutic Recreation, 2008. 

Hometown Kamloops, BC

About me My role models are Therapeutic Recreation Instructors Geri Paterson, Tricia Rachfall, Dr. Lynda Phillips and Dr. Joe Levy, and fellow grads Kylah Blair and Cydney Walker.

My must-visit web site is World Leisure

This summer, I'm going to work towards increasing my knowledge and qualifications in the field of ability technology. But five summers from now, you'll find me designing and fabricating technology that will allow equal access to extreme play environments and exposure to the natural environment in my adventure-based programs.

If someone gave me a million dollars tomorrow I would start a non-governmental organization that would provide recreation and leisure equipment and technology, and promote sustainable opportunities for healthy development through play. It would be culturally sensitive and education-based. That, and I'd buy probably the biggest flat-screen plasma TV you have ever seen. 

If I could go back in time I would tell my 17-year-old self to keep at it. Be faithful, all of your experiences are leading you to the fulfillment of the master plan for your life. Look forward to the exciting stepping-stone of the Bachelor of Therapeutic Recreation at Douglas College in your quest to use the skills and abilities you have been given to improve your community.

I would tell fellow grads stay in touch, stay stoked.

On a scale of 1 to 10 I give my excitement to leave school 10/10 (but give me a week and it will be 10/10 to get back!).

The hardest thing at College was I learned that being a visible "minority" in this class wasn't such a big deal. My inclusive classmates made me feel like I was one of the girls! Also, as a "mature" student it was interesting to start a new profession and begin climbing that ladder of knowledge and professionalism again. This was fairly easy to overcome when I realized how excited I was just to be on this ladder.

The best thing about College was realizing how much I didn't know and beginning to fill that gap, having friends on the same path, experiencing a feeling of community, learning from inspirational instructors, and having unbelievable opportunities to make positive differences. And also that the diploma turned into a degree!

I'll never forget when the mouse came to visit. The instructor was thoroughly unimpressed and told people to get off their chairs and be quiet. As she continued to instruct, the mouse did laps around the classroom and hung out beneath the whiteboard and people continued to quiver quietly with their feet off the floor. The determination and frustration of the instructor in addition to the mass hysteria of the students made this a very memorable experience.

My favourite instructor was among many others, Dr. Joe Levy. He pushed us to think creatively, positively and globally.

The most important thing I learned is attitude stands out. Be a life-long learner. Also, listen and don't be afraid of failure.