CONWAY, Ark. — A Conway man has proven age is just a number when you're going for your dreams.

From U.S. service member to current University of Central Arkansas nursing student, retirement is not on the table for 56-year-old Mark Cavender.

"I get some funny looks sometimes, but I look back funny and it works," said Cavender. “I tell some of my classmates, they could be the same age as my grandchildren.”

Cavender started nursing school in fall 2017. He plans to graduate in May 2021.

In his mid-50's, he decided to leave behind his safety inspection job for nursing after experiencing a loss.

Cavender's wife passed away of cancer just a few years ago, and that's why he gained a passion for the field.

"The nurses, they were the key to all of our successes and what we were doing, and so I wanted to help other people who experience what I experienced,” said Cavender.

"It's never too late. It takes a decision, brains, and heart," said Susan Gotto, director of nursing.

Though it may seem strange to some of Cavender's classmates that the 56-year-old is starting new, Gatto said he's playing a role in shrinking a major problem in the nursing field.

"There's a very severe nursing shortage nationwide. Nursing schools are struggling to keep up,” said Gatto.

Cavender is working his way through clinicals from medicine-surgery, to labor and delivery.

"I'm kind of waiting to see which one moves me the most,” said Cavender.

He's unsure where his nursing degree will take him, whether he's helping the elderly in a nursing home or saving someone's life in the emergency room.

But what he does know, is age is just a number. He chose nursing, and nursing chose him.

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