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Updated 10:00 AM September 22, 2008




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Spotlight: Detroit native found success, now helps others

On a good day, U-M Medical School Diversity & Career Development Office (DCDO) Health Career Programs Manager and youth mentor Princess Currence does not need an iPod or radio on her drive home.

"When they believe in themselves like I believe in them, that is what brings me joy — that is what sends me home humming everyday," she says.
(Photo by Lin jones, U-M Photo Services)

Currence directs the Health Career Programs (HCP), educational programs/initiatives that primarily serve Michigan high school students, U-M undergraduates, post-baccalaureate students from various colleges and universities, as well as HCP alumni.

For the past four years Currence has mentored undergraduate engineering student Adil Kahn.

"She is constantly willing to go the extra mile to help you," Kahn says.

"As a young person," Currence says. "I did not know what the title of my future job was to be but I knew that I wanted to help young people realize their potential."

Her parents selected the name Princess because both her dad and grandfather were named Prince.

"I got some flak growing up," she says. "But as I have gotten older it has been a complete reversal. People say, 'That is cool name.'"

Currence graduated in1995 from Southwestern High School in Detroit. "In high school the future was very bleak for some of my classmates. I am fortunate that I had a strong support network of parents, family and friends that provided me with the tools and the belief that I could do whatever I wanted to do if I wanted it bad enough and willing to work for it, which included a higher education," she says.

Currence worked full time to pay her way through U-M, in positions at the University and in the Ann Arbor area, where she performed desktop publishing and graphic design. She earned undergraduate degrees in Spanish and English in 2000.

But Currence didn't find her real calling until a supervisor/mentor sent her a bulletin on programs at the School of Social Work, thinking the field would suit her. "Previously I thought social work was just child welfare," Currence says. "I discovered that social work provided me the tools to do what I believed that I am here to do — help people realize their potential, particularly youth."

In 2003 she earned a Masters in Social Work degree in Community & Social Systems and Community Organizing, specializing in organizational solutions, grant-writing, culturally competent community-based program planning and youth development strategies.

DCDO HCP programs include the Summer Science Academy and the Medical Schools Summer Opportunities for Apprenticeships in Research Program and the premedical components of the Profile for Success Program, the Flint Hurley SCORE Project. Additionally, Currence is an advisor providing comprehensive pre-health guidance for those interested in working with the underserved. She also serves as staff advisor for Black Pre-Medical Association.

"Our director Dr. David Gordon is really passionate about addressing the unmet needs regarding reducing health disparities in undeserved populations specifically," Currence says. The services provided by her office, she says, are "a key strategy in providing the initiatives/programs that produce a well-trained and diverse workforce to address some of the challenges of the undeserved."

On a recent work day, she spoke with parents concerned about college applications, conducted a staff in-service, advised undergraduate students applying to medical school, participated in a National Service Organization conference call, contacted students on their assignments after an advising appointment, checked in with program staff on assigned duties for a status report and more.

Currence lives in Detroit with husband Gregory and daughter Gabrielle, 2.

Her hobby is sewing, particularly with colorful traditional African textiles.

Of her job, she says "There are so many moments that I just revel in, like when a student really begins to see how great they are, the level of potential that they a capable of and can now clearly state what they want to do in life, that is what it is all about."

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