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Finding Passion in the Unexpected

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Jay Prince

Branching out into the work world can be a challenge. Coming out of college, young professionals are faced with the task of carving out a career path that is both fulfilling and financially sustaining. Oftentimes, this means taking on responsibilities at a young age. Jay Prince, President and CEO of Heritage Community of Kalamazoo (Heritage), set out on an unexpected path early on that led him to Kalamazoo.

“I never thought I would be working primarily in the retirement community field,” said Prince. “I started my journey when I was 21 and I never felt that my age was a barrier. I knew what the responsibility was.”

A native of Bemidji, Minn., Prince attended Concordia College where he earned a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration from both the hospital and long-term care programs.

“I wanted to run a hospital, but a professor asked me to also study long-term care,” Prince recalled. “After an experience in the field, I felt like I was called to do this.”

It was this calling that led Prince to Michigan early in his career and he has been in love with the state ever since.

“It was like spring break from Minnesota. I ran another retirement community in West Michigan and then got recruited to Heritage. This was the place I was supposed to be,” Prince said.

When describing the type of work that Heritage does and how it differs from other long-term care services, Prince said, “We are a non-profit organization that was founded by Kalamazoo for Kalamazoo. Fifty percent of the people we serve are eligible for some form of subsidy, so we take care of many different seniors in different stages of their journey.”

The care that is provided at Heritage is extensive to say the least. Aside from independent living, assisted living, skilled care, memory care, and homecare options, residents benefit from day-to-day conveniences that would rival most day spas.

When asked how Heritage bucks the stereotype of senior living, Prince replied, “It is the complete opposite of what you may think. It’s really fun and requires certain expertise. We are cooking the best food, creating learning experiences, and practicing holistic wellness.”

Prince loves the work he does and the impact it has on the community. This passion fuels him to do right by his residents.

“No matter what you are doing, if you are working in healthcare you have to be passionate,” Prince said. “You are working with somebody’s mom, dad, or sibling.”

When he’s not working at Heritage, Prince serves as Chair for LeadingAge Michigan, an organization that represents non-profit providers who afford a variety of services for seniors and adults with disabilities. In addition to this role, he also has a seat on the board of directors for The Kalamazoo Civic Theatre.

Along with his wife Dana, Prince has an admiration for theatre and the arts, which is partly why he enjoys Kalamazoo.

Jay Prince - Family

Prince said, “There is so much art to enjoy here. Our city founders had a vision and it shows.” Prince said. “There are amenities not normally available in a community this size.”

For Jay Prince, the path he set out on years ago has led him to a career where he can make a difference. He hopes the experiences he has gained in his field can help him act as an inspiration for the next generation of professionals to enter the field of long-term care.

“We don’t have enough young people coming out of college wanting to be in leadership or wanting to work with seniors. My hope is that I can inspire young people to want to do what I do,” he said.

From an unexpected path to the head of Heritage, Jay Prince is a Kalamazoo-transplant who has chosen to grow roots in our community.

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