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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9:18 am
Wed November 27, 2013

Putting the 'giving' in Thanksgiving for metro Detroit's kids

Lead in text: 
Jennifer Guerra met up with kids and parents from Myers Elementary School as they made their way into New Hope Baptist Church in Wayne. There's more than turkey on the menu with smiles, hugs, and non-perishable household items going to help out the kids and their families---90% of whom are making their way below the poverty line. Myers' school motto is, "Be Respectful, Be Responsible and Be Safe," but State of Opportunity also learns how "be grateful" made it on the list, too.
New Hope Baptist Church in Wayne, Michigan is doing its part to help ensure that students from a nearby school don't go hungry this holiday season. "We just wanted to show some love," says Virgil Humes, the church's pastor. We want to "show them that we believe in helping the community, and those that might not have a thanksgiving meal, we wanted to show them that we can serve them a Thanksgiving meal so that certainly they won’t be hungry."
Education
11:49 am
Wed November 6, 2013

What kind of education do you get if you spend $12,000 per student?

Nathan Cohen teaches 5th grade at Pierce Elementary in Birmingham
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

Our State of Opportunity team has been diving into the issue school funding over the past couple months.

The vast majority of Michigan K-12 schools get between $7,000 - $8,000 per pupil every year. But there are some schools that get more…a lot more. We're talking about roughly a $5,000 difference between the richest schools in the state and the poorest schools.

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Education
10:32 am
Tue October 29, 2013

5 things to know about Michigan's education gap

Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

Over at our State of Opportunity website, we've been on Gap Watch: achievement gaps, literacy gaps, technology gaps, gender gaps, etc.

Our latest documentary continues the trend.

It's called The Education Gap.

I hung out in two very different 5th grade classrooms over the course of a month and a half.

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Education
7:00 am
Wed July 31, 2013

Lake County's "promise" to make college affordable for low-income families

Lake County offers up to $20,000 for four years of college to all high school graduates in the district
user: Tax Credits flickr

College is expensive. For some families, it’s prohibitively expensive. Several school districts are trying to follow the Kalamazoo Promise model by offering students money to help cover tuition costs. Jennifer Guerra with our State of Opportunity project introduces us to one such "promise" in rural northern Michigan's Lake County.

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Education
7:00 am
Wed July 24, 2013

In Lake County, there is such a thing as a free lunch

The Meet Up & Eat Up Program provides free breakfast and lunch over the summer for all kids in Lake County

More than 90% of school children in Lake County qualify for free or reduced price lunch. To make sure they continue to eat healthy meals once school is out, the county’s school district offers free breakfast and lunch over the summer to any child in the county.

For our State of Opportunity project, Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra dropped by the cafeteria one sunny afternoon to check it out. 

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Economy
7:00 am
Wed July 17, 2013

Lake County has a wealth of natural beauty but few job opportunities

The Pere Marquette River runs through Lake County
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

Lake County, in central northern Michigan, is the poorest part of the state, with nearly half of its children living in poverty. That’s according to the latest Kids Count data. So Jennifer Guerra with our State of Opportunity project went north to visit the rural county to see what life is like there for families.

The county is an area rich in natural beauty, with hundreds of lakes and streams and acres of forest land, but it's very short on job opportunities.

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Law
7:30 am
Wed July 3, 2013

Program aims to keep kids safe in homes and out of foster care

user Childrens Book Review flickr

More than 400,000 children are currently in foster care in the U.S. Once a child has entered the system, they remain there on average for nearly two years, according to a federal report. Our State of Opportunity team looked into a unique program that’s working to prevent kids in Michigan from even entering foster care in the first place.

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Education
7:00 am
Wed June 26, 2013

'People would expect me to fail, to keep popping out more babies.' An essay by a former teen mom

Three generations: Jacquise Purifoy (mom), Jasmine (daughter), Vivan (grandmother)
Photo courtesy of Jacquise Purifoy

The latest Kids Count data show that roughly 11,000 teens gave birth in Michigan in 2010. Statistically speaking, teen parents are more likely to drop out of high school, and their children are more likely to wind up in prison. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

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Health
6:00 am
Wed June 19, 2013

Drug shortages are affecting children in the NICU

NICUs across the country are or have experienced medicine shortages ranging from drugs used to resuscitate a newborn to drugs that provide nutrition.
Credit user herval / flickr

Our State of Opportunity project focuses on kids and what it will take to get them ahead. At the most basic level, that means ensuring children are healthy. But as Michigan Radio’s Jennifer Guerra reports, nationwide drug shortages could threaten even that most basic task.

We called every neonatal intensive care unit in Michigan, and all but one got back us. Each one has experienced or is experiencing a wide variety of drug shortages in the NICU.

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Education
10:03 am
Wed June 12, 2013

'It's so worth it.' The story of three girls, six buses and the hope for a better education

Navia Daniel (left), Shaqueria Harris-Bay and Tanesha George take a total of six buses to get to the school of their dreams.
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio
  • Tanesha, Shay and Navia captured their morning travels in an audio diary.

School is almost out for summer! For some students, that means camp. For others, it means time to get a job. For the three high school sophomores you’re about to meet, it means a break - not just from school, but from riding the bus.

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Arts & Culture
8:00 am
Wed May 15, 2013

Giving the gift of music to at-risk kids in Grand Rapids

Photo courtesy of Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth

Every once and a while, our State of Opportunity team receives a story pitch from someone in the community who's trying to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged youth. This is one of those stories. It’s a piece about boys, girls, and the universal language of music.

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Economy
8:30 am
Wed March 20, 2013

Getting kicked off cash assistance, a personal story

Keisha Johnson gets her three kids ready for school.
Credit Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

As part of our State of Opportunity project, we’re following parents as they struggle to get off public assistance and make a better future for their children. This is an update on one of those families.

I first interviewed Keisha Johnson on a steamy summer day last June. Johnson, 25, grew up poor and is still poor to this day. But she has three reasons she wants to climb out poverty, and their names are Kaleb, Jurnee, and Alan, Jr.

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Environment & Science
9:40 am
Thu August 23, 2012

Which is greener? A gas grill or charcoal?

Which is greener, a charcoal grill or a gas grill? The answer, "it's complicated."
Magnus Manske wikimedia commons

(Editor's note: This story was originally published in July 2009)

Neal Fisher thinks he’s an environmentally friendly kind of guy. He and his wife recycle, they use compact fluorescent light bulbs in the house, they walk most places and hardly ever use their car.

But when it comes to outdoor grilling... it’s charcoal all the way.

“It may be a little decadent when you’re taking the environment into consideration, but I do it.”

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State of Opportunity

State of Opportunity is a multi-year reporting and community engagement project focused on how poverty affects children in Michigan. It will shed light on the challenges of growing up or raising kids while struggling to pay the bills and highlight the successes and the resilience of these families and the people who serve them.

Science/Medicine
3:13 pm
Mon April 30, 2012

Report: Percentage of low-birthweight babies on the rise in Michigan

user anitapatterson morgueFile

A new report shows Michigan has made some progress in improving maternal and infant well-being.

The Michigan League for Human Services' Kids Count in Michigan project found a drop in the percentage of teen births over the past decade. Repeat births to teens and pre-term births have also decreased.

But it’s not all good news. Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count in Mchigan project director, says the state saw worsening trends over the decade in babies weighing less than 5.5 pounds, or low-birthweight babies.

"One of indicators that is of most concern is the 7 percent increase in low-birthweight, because that is what drives infant mortality particularly in the African American community."

African Americans babies had double the risk of being born too small, compared to white and Hispanic babies.

The report calls for more state investment in programs and policies to improve the well-being of mothers, and provide a stronger safety net for low-income families and their children.

Zehnder-Merrell says these data are not only indicators of how successful the next generation will be, but also "how successful our state will be."

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Arts/Culture
8:00 am
Fri April 27, 2012

Detroit's Roaming Table mixes civic engagement and urban planning

The Roaming Table is part of Detroit Works' civic engagement efforts

Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson last week debunked the conventional wisdom that Detroit has 40 square miles of vacant land. In her report she found that in all likelihood the number is probably closer to half that.

Which, if you think about it, is still a lot of empty land. 

Which is where the Detroit Works Project comes in -- that's the name of Mayor Dave Bing's revitalization plan for the city. The Detroit Works team has to figure out what to do with all that empty land. To help them find some answers, they're turning to Detroit's residents for help.

They're also enlisting the help of ... a table.

A table, you say?

Yes. But this is no ordinary table, dear reader. The purpose of this particular table is to "disrupt people’s everyday lives," according to Theresa Skora, who helped design it.

"It’s meant to fold up and be put into a car and be taken around," says Skora. Which is why they call it the Roaming Table.  And believe it or not this table – with its nifty green logo and stacks of glossy pamphlets – is key to the city's revitalization plan aka Detroit Works.

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Arts/Culture
5:00 pm
Thu April 26, 2012

Roaming Table

Changing Gears Reporter Kate Davidson debunked the conventional wisdom that Detroit has 40 square miles of vacant land. In her report she found that in all likelihood the number is probably closer to half that:

DAVIDSON: That includes empty land - 19 square miles – and land with empty houses. No parks.

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Science/Medicine
12:49 pm
Thu April 26, 2012

Michigan health officials urge vaccination to avoid pertussis outbreak

Health officials urge Michigan residents to get a Tdap vaccine
user mconnors morgueFile

Washington, Montana and other states are experiencing pertussis outbreaks.

The respiratory disease, also known as whooping cough, is highly contagious. If infants catch it, they often end up in the hospital.

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Arts
4:08 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Michigan poets Roethke, Hayden featured on new U.S. stamp

Photo courtesy of U.S.P.S.

The U.S. Postal Service is paying homage to the world of poetry with ten new commemorative stamps.

Two Michigan poets will be featured on the new Forever stamps: Theodore Roethke, a Saginaw native and Pulitzer Prize winning poet; and Robert Hayden, a Detroit poet, and the first black poet laureate of the United States.

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Arts/Culture
4:50 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

A Hemingway-themed hotel in Michigan's northern woods?

user clarita morgueFile

Looking for a clean, well-lighted place to lay your head?

A company has plans to develop a slew of Ernest Hemingway-inspired hotels and resorts. The folks behind Hemingway Hotels & Resorts only have a website at this point, but their plan is to build a minimum of 30 hotels worldwide, all based in places that were in some way relevant to the life, times and adventures of Papa Hemingway.

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