Jennifer Guerra

Reporter/Producer

Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, which looks at kids from low-income families and what it takes to get them ahead. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.

Her stories and documentaries have won numerous regional and national awards, and her work has aired on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace and Studio 360.

Jennifer graduated from the University of Michigan and received her M.A. in broadcast journalism from Fordham University. When she's not on the radio, she and her husband are making up lyrics to songs and singing them to their adorable baby girl.  

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Arts/Culture
3:25 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

Racist artifacts on display at Ferris State's Jim Crow Museum

An example of what museum curator David Pilgrim calls the Mammy stereotype
Photo courtesy of the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University

What was once a private collection of racist memorabilia has now been expanded to a full-blown museum on the campus of Ferris State University.

When sociology professor David Pilgrim came to Ferris State, he brought with him his collection of racist artifacts and donated them to the university. For years the items sat in a small classroom on campus, but are now on display in the new Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia.

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Education
2:55 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

U of M, Focus Hope team up on Detroit community development inititaive

Detroit skyline
user Bernt Rostad creative commons

Focus Hope, a well-known social services organization in Detroit, has spent decades providing food, career training and other services to people throughout southeast Michigan.

Now the University of Michigan's Graham Sustainability Institute is kicking in roughly $200,000 to help the nonprofit with its Focus Hope Village Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to transform the 100-block area around the Focus Hope campus, where thousands live at or below the poverty line.

John Callewaert is leading the U of M side of things. He says they’ll be working on six projects ranging from legal issues around vacant land to developing playgrounds to "moving towards college readiness" within the community.

He says the strategies developed could be used as a model for other areas with "lots of open space and economic decline." 

According to Focus Hope, their Village Initiative is based on a successful model being used in New York:

This initiative is inspired by the adage that it "takes a village to raise a child.” Much like the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York, the HOPE Village Initiative will bring together whatever resources are necessary to transform our community. Already, parents, businesses, retirees, educators, block clubs and others are working together to create opportunities for our children.

Each of the six projects will receive up to $30,000 over 18 months.

Education
5:02 pm
Fri April 20, 2012

Madison Heights teachers get 10% retroactive pay cut, may sue district

user kconnors morgueFile

A public school district in Oakland County imposed a ten percent pay cut on its teachers retroactive to the start of the school year.

Now it is likely the teachers will sue the district.

Teachers in the Madison Heights school district have been working without a contract for three years. In that time there’s been lots of bargaining, a fact finding mission, mediation - but to no avail.

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Education
4:31 pm
Thu April 19, 2012

Ann Arbor schools face $17.8 million budget deficit

user jdurham morgueFile

Michigan school districts are struggling with growing budget deficits. Even relatively wealthy districts are facing unprecedented cuts.

The Ann Arbor Public School district faces a $17.8 million deficit. The district's budget for the 2011-12 school year is $183 million. 

Deputy Superintendent of Operations Robert Allen met with the district's Board of Education on Wednesday, where he laid out three possible plans to deal with the deficit in Ann Arbor – each one progressively more severe. 

All three proposals include:

  • teacher layoffs: Plan A: 32 teachers; Plan B: 48 teachers; Plan C: 64 teachers
  • closing Roberto Clemente, one of two alternative high schools in the district
  • cuts to transportation*

*Plan C calls for getting rid of high school bus routes entirely.

Ann Arbor School Board president Deb Mexicotte says the cuts are "reaching the bone," and "if you keep cutting, you’re going to reach the place where you can no longer maintain what you do well."

Mexicotte blames the state for what she says its chronic under-funding of education:

"This is not the story of our smallest districts or our districts that have struggled because of their tax revenue package. We’re talking about districts that people generally think are insulated from these kinds of things." She adds, "we’re all in this together."

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Education
6:06 pm
Wed April 18, 2012

U of M grad students challenge ban on forming unions

Members of the Graduate Employees Organization picketing on the North Campus of the University of Michigan in 2008.
U of M GEO

The issue of whether or not certain University of Michigan graduate students can unionize is back in the news.

Two graduate students at the University of Michigan have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in an effort to overturn a new state law that prohibits U of M graduate student research assistants, or GSRAs, from collective bargaining.

Public Act 45 effectively says GSRAs are primarily students, not public employees, and therefore don’t have the right to form a union.

Sam Montgomery is with the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO), a labor union at U of M. She says the law violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. constitution:

"It singles out this group of individuals and withholds them from a right that is granted to other public employees without giving a rational based in fact as to why they are not employees."

Last May, the U of M Board of Regents voted 6 to 2 to recognize the university's roughly 2,200 GSRAs as public employees with the right to vote to form a union.

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission found otherwise in a 1981 ruling. The Commission was in the middle of holding its own administrative hearing on the issue when Governor Snyder signed Public Act 45 into law.

Education
12:53 pm
Wed April 18, 2012

U of M to offer free online classes this summer

U of M to offer free online classes ranging from finance to literature
user jdurham morgueFile

Beginning this summer, the University of Michigan will offer a number of online classes that anyone from anywhere in the world can take…for free.

A professor from the U of M business school will teach a class on finance. Want to know about electronic voting in time for the November presidential election? You can take a course called securing digital democracy.

U of M English professor Eric Rabkin will teach a class on fantasy and science fiction, which is scheduled to go live this summer:

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Arts/Culture
3:39 pm
Mon April 16, 2012

Michigan Theater to host new, international film fest

Photo courtesy of Abby Rose Photo

The Ann Arbor Film Festival wrapped up less than a month ago…they’ve barely packed up their film reels.  And already the Michigan Theater is prepping for yet another festival to open next month called Cinetopia.

This new, international festival will feature more traditional narrative film and documentaries, rather than the experimental films that dominate the Ann Arbor Film Fest.

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Arts/Culture
8:00 am
Thu April 12, 2012

UM professors lead a morel hunt inspired by the music of John Cage

user ladydragonflycc Flickr

What do experimental composer John Cage and Ann Arbor have in common, you ask? Morels. Story goes that John Cage was something of an amateur mushroom hunter, and he used to hunt for morels in the woods around Ann Arbor.

And since Spring means morel hunting season in Michigan, and many mushroom-enthusiasts are out foraging for the delicacy, a group in Ann Arbor is putting a musical twist on the annual spring hunt.

To celebrate what would be Cage’s 100th birthday this year, U of M music professor Michael Gurevich teamed up with U of M mycology professor Tim James for a new kind of morel hunt.

"I thought, as an homage to Cage, let’s create this performance where we tell stories, which Cage really liked to do, while hunting for edible mushrooms in the woods," explains Gurevich.

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Arts/Culture
5:13 pm
Wed April 11, 2012

Prison-themed gift shop to open near the old Jackson State Prison

user whatimeantosay morgueFile

The city of Jackson is capitalizing on its long history as the site of a state prison.

In addition to guided prison tours, visitors can now buy prison-related items at the city’s new prison gift shop.

When the Jackson State Prison closed in 2007, it was turned into a live-work space for artists known as the Armory Arts Village. One of the women who lives there, Judy Gail Krasnow, gives guided tours of the historic prison.

She says lots of tourists asked about a gift shop, which didn’t exist. So she created one in the Art 634 building across from the old prison, and built it to look like an old prison cell. Krasnow says the Old Prison Gift Shop was "modeled after the cells at the first prison, which had brick walls, and the doors were those thick, iron bars."

Krasnow plans to sell art made by current and former prisoners through the University of Michigan's Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP).

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Arts/Culture
4:50 pm
Wed April 11, 2012

Macomb County says 'no' to proposed DIA millage

Photo courtesy of the DIA

The Detroit Institute of Arts wanted to ask Macomb County residents to pay a tax to help bring in much-needed cash for the museum, which has already cut 20 percent of its staff and reduced its budget.

But county commissioners killed the idea.

Wayne County Commissioners last month voted to create an arts authority to look at getting a DIA millage proposal in front of voters.

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Education
5:48 pm
Tue April 10, 2012

Michigan high school grad rates remain steady despite more rigorous standards

Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

The graduation rate for the high school class of 2011 remained relatively steady compared to the previous year, despite new science and math requirements students had to pass in order to graduate.

Wendy Zdeb-Roper is executive director of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals. She says most educators had "a certain degree of trepidation" when the requirements were introduced because they were concerned about graduation rates and how students would fare.

According to the Center for Educational Performance and Information, the average graduation rate drop by only a little more two percent – from 76 percent in 2010 to 74 percent in 2011, which is statistically insignificant:

"That number is pretty minimal compared to the Armageddon that was predicted," says Zdeb-Roper.

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Education
4:53 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

DPS turnaround plan calls for "self-governing" high schools, new accountability standards

Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts laid out his latest plan for how to turn the cash-strapped district around and help students improve.

Here are the three main components of the turnaround:

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Arts/Culture
10:20 pm
Sun April 1, 2012

Dexter kids turn to art to get their minds off the tornado

7-year old Ava (left) and her friend paint a banner at the makeshift art studio
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

Dexter residents are still dealing with the aftermath of the tornado that through their town earlier this month. To help with the healing process, one woman has set up an outdoor art studio for kids in one of the hardest hit neighborhoods.

Christine Lux's makeshift studio consists of some tables, a tent, and a giant blue tarp to protect the children’s art work and art supplies.

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Auto/Economy
5:52 pm
Fri March 30, 2012

New AirRide bus travels between Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro

Congressman John Dingell (fifth from right) poses with those behind the AirRide public-private partnership

There’s a new public transit option for those who want to travel between Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport.

It's called AirRide, and it hits the road Monday.

The AirRide bus is not your average mass transit ride. For starters, there’s wi-fi, outlets for your laptop, and a bathroom. Apparently the seats are comfortable, too. So comfy that Ann Arbor Transportation Authority's David Nacht describes them as "more comfortable than three out of the four chairs" in his living room.

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Environment
1:47 pm
Wed March 28, 2012

Michigan researchers turn to public to help fund wolf research

The wolves of Isle Royale
Photo from petridish.org

Two Northern Michigan scientists are turning to the public for funding help.

Michigan Tech researcher Rolf Peterson studies the wolf population on Isle Royale National Park. Peterson says the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, has helped fund the bulk of the research on the island for the past several decades.

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Arts/Culture
1:33 pm
Wed March 28, 2012

Artpod: Ann Arbor Film Festival turns 50

Opening night marquee at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor
Photo courtesy of Abby Rose Photo

Happy 50th, Ann Arbor Film Festival!

On today's Artpod, we hear from the festival's director, Donald Harrison. We also catch up with two longtime fans of the festival - one: an audience member, the other: a filmmaker - to hear some of their favorite film fest memories.

Festival-goer: "Every year I find at least two or three films that are just amazing."

John Johnson has been going to the Ann Arbor Film Festival since the late 1960s, and considers himself a big fan of the event.

He's such a big fan that when a film he likes doesn't win an award at the festival, he sends the filmmaker a "a few dollars myself and tell them what a great film it was."  He says he's probably done that about four times, three of which have resulted in a letter back from the filmmaker and a DVD copy of the film.

One of his favorite memories was when he saw Claude LeLouch's "Rendezvous" at the 1976 film festival. He says the film "totally blew my mind," left him with goose bumps.

Johnson says every year he finds "at least two or three films that are just amazing, from my point of view." He says it's worth sitting in the theatre for hours to get to the films "that are just amazing that you would have nowhere else to see."

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Arts/Culture
4:52 pm
Mon March 26, 2012

Ann Arbor Film Fest fans celebrate 50 years of experimental film

The Ann Arbor Film Festival celebrates 50 years of experimental, independent film
user mconnors morgueFile

The experimental Ann Arbor Film Festival kicks off its 50th season Tuesday, March 27.

More than 5,000 films have been screened at the festival over the past five decades. The festival has gone through its ups and downs during that time, too, including cuts to state funding and a high-profile censorship controversy several years ago.

Donald Harrison, the festival’s executive director, says more than 230 films will be shown this time around, many by obscure filmmakers.

"We really encourage people just to have that open mind, that sense of discovery," says Harrison. "We guarantee that people will see things that really affect them in a rewarding way, and of course they’ll see things that maybe they don’t care as much about, but that’s probably someone else’s favorite film in the festival."

We caught up with two longtime fans of the festival - an audience member, and a filmmaker – to hear some of their favorite film fest memories.

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Arts/Culture
8:50 am
Sun March 25, 2012

U of M leads effort to integrate "arts practices" at research universities

Dani Davis

The University of Michigan is leading an effort to get the arts to play a bigger role at research universities.

Reading, writing, and "making" are the skills Theresa Reid wants to see emphasized in higher education.

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Arts/Culture
10:20 am
Sat March 24, 2012

MSU Broad Art Museum pushes back opening, touts "virtual" museum experience

Users use Flickr™ to create a cloud of spatial imagery in the virtual museum
Photo courtesy of the Broad Art Museum

The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University will not open April 21st as scheduled due to construction problems. Instead, the contemporary art museum will open sometime this fall.

But for those who just can’t wait to see what the inside of the Zaha Hadid-designed museum looks like, the folks at the Broad have created a “virtual” museum that anyone from anywhere in the world can access:

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Dexter Tornado
4:34 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

Dexter Township spends $200K to aid cleanup efforts after tornado

Repairing homes damaged by an F3 tornado in Dexter, Michigan.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

The cleanup effort is well underway after last week’s tornado in Dexter.

Steve Feinman, a trustee for Dexter Township, says volunteers have been incredibly helpful, and the township has hired a contractor to help with the cleanup.

Rather than wait to see if the state will send disaster relief funds, the township has gone ahead and allocated $200,000 from its own budget to help residents "remove trees and branches and shrub material that was damaged." Fineman says residents can bring those materials to the edge of the roadside for pickup. 

"You can’t wait for a state declaration to make sure your main thoroughfares are open, or people can get out of their houses and have their utilities back, so it’s a necessary thing," explains Fineman.

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