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.  

Ways To Connect

Photo courtesy of Nicola's Books

Holiday sales appear to be up at most independent bookstores in Michigan, thanks in part to the fact that one of their major competitors is no longer around.

Borders, the now defunct big bookstore chain, was often accused of killing the independent bookstore. But those indie bookstores that remain are now reaping the benefits of Borders demise.

Photo from "All-American Muslim" courtesy of TLC

A network of Arab-American nonprofits say they will no longer accept donations from Lowe's.

The home improvement chain has gotten tons of media attention since it pulled its ads from TLC's All-American Muslim, saying the show was a "lightning rod" for controversy. The retailer was also the recipient of the conservative Florida Family Association's campaign to get the ads pulled.

Now 22 Arab-American nonprofits have refused to accept any future donations from Lowe's.

Hassan Jaber is with ACCESS, a nonprofit based in Dearborn. He says for the past five years the Lowe's in Allen Park donated shovels, paint, tools, and all other kinds of supplies to ACCESS. The items went to support the nonprofit's home renovation program in some of Detroit’s poorest neighborhoods.

"Together we gave hope to the community," says Jaber. But he goes on to say that the decision by Lowe's at the corporate level is "a complete contradiction of their local mission here."

Jaber says they will no longer accept those supplies. He adds they considered the Lowe's in Allen Park a "friend and partner," but he says ACCESS "made it clear that we stand by our principal."

Ian Tadashi Moore / Mosaic

Artpod is back!

In today's podcast, we look at how an arts group is encouraging lower-income kids to go on to college, with measurable results. It's called Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, which one student describes as a place filled with "pops of rainbow colors."

Here's an excerpt:

user jdurham / morgueFile

Michigan’s Republican-led Senate has passed a measure that removes the 150-school cap on university-sponsored charters. The bill is now stalled in the House.

The way the current cap works: If a charter is considered "high performing," it is re-labeled a School of Excellence, and removed from the cap, which leaves a vacancy for a new university-sponsored charter school to fill.

user kconnors / morgueFile

You may one day be able to check out bicycles for free at the Ann Arbor District Library.

The library is considering teaming up with Common Cycle, a non-profit bike club, in an effort to provide free bike rentals to library patrons.

Eric Jankowski is with Common Cycle. He says details are still being worked out, including what the late fees will be, and for how long a library patron can check out a bike. As for how many bikes they’ll need?

Photo by coopah / morgueFile

Teachers across the state can now apply for grants to help cover transportation costs for field trips.

The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs is providing schools with Arts & Culture Trek grants worth $500 to help cover transportation costs.

Stacey Lind is with the Michigan Youth Arts, the group that’ll be distributing the grants. She said there's an approved list of all organizations on their website, which includes "museums, orchestras, performing arts centers, dance organizations, [and] the Detroit Zoo."

Lind said extracurricular activities like field trips are often the first things to go when a school is trying to cut costs:

"Some students never go to the symphony; some students never get to see a live dance performance," said Lind. "These transportation grants provide an opportunity for those students to actually be able to see and experience things  they might never be exposed to in school."

About 100 grants are available, though Lind says more could be on the way.  Each school can qualify for one$500 grant.

Applications are available now through January 16 for field trips between March and May of 2012.

As we reported earlier this week, Aretha Franklin is searching for the next great opera singer. If you're 18-40 years old and classically trained, the Queen of Soul wants to hear from you:

"Some of the older classical singers like Jessye Norman, and Leontyne [Price], Barbara Hendricks...they are retiring, they’re not singing anymore, and I’d like to see some younger singers come along and take their place," explains Franklin.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney went back to his Michigan roots to choose a campaign theme song.

“Born Free” by Michigan native Kid Rock has been chosen as Romney's official campaign theme. A Romney staffer confirmed the music selection with Michigan Radio this afternoon.

User bazylek100 / Flickr

Calling all opera singers: Aretha Franklin wants to hear from you.

The Queen of Soul says she wants to find the next Jessye Norman or Barbara Hendricks:

"Some of the older classical singers have retired and they’re not singing anymore, and I’d like to see some younger singers come along and take their place."

Consumers Energy / Flickr/user

Consumers Energy has canceled its plans to build a coal plant near Bay City. The $2 billion plant would have created 1,800 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs.

Jeff Holyfield, a spokesman for Consumers Energy, says there two main reasons for the cancelation:

  1. Customer demand is down "about 5 or 6 percent. Holyfield says they "don’t expect that demand to reach pre-recession marks until sometime late in 2012."
  2. Natural gas prices are cheap, which Holyfield says makes a "new coal-fired power plant less economically attractive."

Holyfield says Consumers Energy invested about $25 million in the now scrapped coal plan.

The utility will also suspend operations at seven of its smaller coal-fired units across the state by 2015, and focus on two new wind farms it’s developing: one in west Michigan's Mason County, the other in Tuscola County in the thumb.

Consumers continues its $1.6 billion investment at its five largest coal-fired units to meet environmental regulations, which Holyfield says will create about 2,000 jobs in the state.

The Ann Arbor A.V. Club has folded. The local entertainment arm of the popular satirical newspaper “The Onion” made its debut in September and employed three full time workers.

Bobby Mitchell and his company Bopper Media handled all aspects of the Ann Arbor Onion and A.V. Club franchise - from printing to distribution and ad sales. Mitchell did not want to be recorded for an interview, but he did confirm that the November 24th issue was the last one he’d be publishing. He wouldn’t say more except to say “lawyers” were involved. He also added that there's a slight possibility The Onion corporate might want to take over the Ann Arbor A.V. Club and publish it.

Curtis Sullivan was very surprised to hear the news. Sullivan co-owns the comic store Vault of Midnight in Ann Arbor. He says, unlike other free, entertainment weeklies, copies of the Onion’s used to fly off the shelves at his store:

"We almost never have leftovers of the Onion! And I hear people talking about, 'did you read The Onion?' I don’t know, you don’t really hear that as much about other things."

Sullivan himself is a huge fan of The Onion - so much so he even signed up for a full year of advertisements with the local A.V. Club, something he never does:

"I’m not very excited about print advertising as a business owner generally. When they approached us, it was like, this is great, we’ll do it! I thought it would be a perfect match."

Instead, Sullivan's Vault of Midnight ad only got to run once before the publication folded.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) is $650,000 richer, thanks to a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Joseph Rosa, director of UMMA, calls the grant a "dream come true" because it allows the museum to shift from an "oh, if we could" mentality to one of "now we can."

Five students from Albion College believe they know how to fix the U.S. economy. The team will share their ideas tomorrow in Washington, D.C. at the national College Fed Challenge finals.

Albion will compete against the four other regional finalists: Harvard University; Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey; Lafayette College; and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

user imedagoze / Flickr

The National Endowment for the Arts recently awarded $340,000 to Michigan arts groups.

This round of grants went to support events like the International Jazz Festival in Detroit, and the Gilmore Keyboard Festival in Kalamazoo. You can see a full list here.

The advocacy group ArtServe Michigan got a $25,000 grant to create a new program to help artists navigate the law. Cezanne Charles is with ArtServe, and she says the nonprofit plans to hold workshops next year about intellectual property rights, how to start an LLC, even how to buy a building:

"In a lot of states that we’ve talked to, this is not something that artists can regularly do. But in our unique state, this is something that a lot of artists are doing and a lot of creative businesses are doing."

The Lawyers for a Creative Economy program will provide free consultations and lawyer referrals, as well as legal services to artists on a sliding scale or pro bono basis.

Photo courtesy of Michigan State University

The long-awaited Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University has officially set its opening date: April 21, 2012.

But there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done;  the Zaha Hadid-designed building is still under construction, exhibits still need to be planned, and positions need to be filled.

But Min Jung Kim, the museum's deputy director, is confident it will all be ready for the museum’s grand opening. She says the whole process of creating a museum from scratch is exciting:

user Penywise / morguefile

Nonprofits across Michigan are doing their annual end-of-year holiday push for financial donations. This will be the last time donors will be able to take advantage of a charitable tax credit.

If you think about it, class is a tricky word. What does it even mean? How do you define it?

Michigan Radio reporters and producers take a look at how social class impacts our lives - from the way we plan our cities and neighborhoods, to the way we’re treated in a courtroom.

We also hear from folks around the state as they share their thoughts on class.

Part 1

This idea of class – class warfare, class resentment. It’s everywhere. And yet, how are we defining class?

Ian Tadashi Moore / Mosaic

Michigan’s economy is steadily becoming more "knowledge-based" than "factory-based." 

That means, in order to land a job and earn a decent salary, a college degree is that much more crucial. But for many lower income kids, higher ed is out of reach. But an arts group in Detroit is helping to level the playing field among teenagers...with very real results.

Using the arts as a "hook"

United States Census Bureau / Wikipedia

The issue of class has been in the news a lot lately. From the “Occupy Wall Street Movement” which has snowballed across the country, to “class warfare” accusations coming out of Washington, D.C.

We’ve also heard recent reports that show the nation’s middle class is shrinking while the top earners’ salaries have skyrocketed.

Over the next week and a half, Michigan Radio will explore this idea of “social class” and how it impacts our lives.

getdarwin / Flickr

The issue of class has been in the news a lot lately. From the “Occupy Wall Street Movement,” which has snowballed across the country, to accusations of “class warfare” in Washington, D.C.. We’ve also heard recent reports that show the nation’s middle class is shrinking while the top earners’ salaries have skyrocketed.

Today, Michigan Radio begins a new series The Culture of Class. Over the next week and a half, we'll explore the idea of “social class” and how it impacts our lives. But, first, we had to ask: What is class? How do you define it? We put those questions to demographer Kurt Metzger, who runs Data Driven Detroit.

Inform our coverage: What does class mean to you?

More than 20 paintings and other memorabilia by the late Jack Kevorkian are supposed to be auctioned off in New York next week.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Good news for classical music fans who live in Detroit. Detroit residents can now buy tickets to any Detroit Symphony Orchestra classical or jazz concert this season for $20.

Paul Hogle is executive vice president of the DSO. He says the new Detroit Rush Initiative is one way the orchestra can "connect more deeply" to the city. 

The Detroit Science Center was supposed to re-open Wednesday after it closed late last month due to a shortage of cash. But now it looks as though the science center will remain closed until it can drum up $5 million.

Kelly Fulford, vice-president of Marketing and Development at the Detroit Science Center, says the museum is developing a new operating plan – one that’s lean and conservative.

Dani Davis

A new form of “grass roots” arts journalism could soon be in store for Detroit.

Jennifer Conlin lives in Michigan and is one of the finalists in the Community Arts Journalism Challenge, a national competition to get more people engaged with the arts.

Her idea is called iCritic Detroit, and it would allow arts patrons to record their own reviews of an exhibit or event by hopping into a mobile video booth.

A new exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts looks at life in the Motor City over the past decade. 

The exhibit - Detroit Revealed - includes videos and photographs of city residents and community gardens. It also includes images of the city’s decline: abandoned buildings and empty, overgrown lots - what some call “ruin porn."

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Opera Theatre

Michigan’s ballet companies, theatres and opera houses are kicking off their 2011-12 season this fall, and it appears box office sales might be trending up.

User: penywise / MorgueFile

If you’re on faculty at the University of Michigan and you have an idea for a startup company…you’re in luck. If you can get outside funding, U of M will match that funding up to $500,000.

U of M President Mary Sue Coleman says "if you can convince a venture fund to invest in you, you just automatically get an investment from us. So we’re not picking winners and losers, and that’s what I like about the program."

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

A new White House report claims President Obama’s $447 billion American Jobs Act will save or create 11,900 teaching jobs in Michigan.

According to the "Teachers Jobs At Risk" report, about 300,000 education jobs across the country have been cut since 2008, and another 280,000 teaching jobs are in jeopardy.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s new season officially starts this weekend.

DSO executive vice president Paul Hogle says ticket sales for the orchestra’s 2011-12 season are going pretty well as of right now. That's good news for an organization that lost around $1.8 million last year due to a six-month musician’s strike.

Photo courtesy of the Ariana Gallery in Royal Oak

The late Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s art work and other memorabilia will be auctioned off next month. The auction will be held at the New York Institute of Technology in Manhattan on October 27th-28th.

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