Jennifer Guerra


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

Doug Aikenhead / Michigan Radio Picture Project

You can file this story under "silver lining."

Michigan's recession has left a lot of empty buildings in its wake. When James Marks was looking for a larger building to house his t-shirt and flat screen printing company, VG Kids, he looked at a two-story brick building on Railroad Street in Ypsilanti.

The building had plenty of space, but was divided into dozens of small rooms. Marks says the space wasn't a good fit for his company, but it was perfect for artists’ studios:

user penywise / morguefile

The current credit crunch has made it harder for people to get loans from a bank. Gone are the days when you could walk into your local bank branch, flash your credit score and walk out with a loan. So many are turning to their friends and family for help...but is that a good idea?

To lend, or not to lend

When Pete and Michelle Baker wanted to buy a new house, they needed money for a down payment. Their down payment was tied up in their old house, which they hadn't sold yet.

user clarita / morguefile

Classes start today at the new, privately funded Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in southeast Michigan. It's the first of three new medical schools expected to come online in the next few years.

user jdurham / morguefile

Governor Snyder has appointed eleven people to oversee the state’s Education Achievement System. That’s the system designed to turnaround the state’s worst schools – starting with Detroit.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The Cincinnati Art Museum recently discovered it had a long lost treasure trove of rare instruments in its possession. More than 800 antique instruments just sitting in storage…unused and pretty much forgotten.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The Cincinnati Art Museum last week discovered it had a long lost treasure trove of rare instruments in its possession. We're talking more than 800 antique instruments just sitting in storage, unused and pretty much forgotten.

Well it turns out the University of Michigan has three times as many historical instruments housed mostly off campus in a high-security vault.  

Photo courtesy of the Somerset Collection

Retail stores are literally popping up around Detroit this weekend.

You use to have to drive about 30 minutes outside of Detroit if you wanted to shop at the tony, upscale Somerset Collection in Troy. But now you can browse the shelves of Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue in midtown Detroit. It’s part of a new pop up mall of sorts called “Somerset CityLoft."

The retail space will be open for one weekend a month, starting today through Saturday, July 30. (Thursday and Friday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.).

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Whole Foods is coming to Detroit.

Photo courtesy of the author

This week's Artpod features an interview from the "Michigan on the Page." It's a web-only series from Michigan Radio, where authors from around the state are interviewed about their own books, about Michigan books in general, and about what it means to be a Michigan writer.

On today's podcast, we turn the mic over to Brian Short, the series' curator, and author Bonnie Jo Campbell.

Campbell's most recent book is the novel Once Upon a River, which has gotten rave reviews. Her previous book, American Salvage, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

The city's bus system has a reputation for running late and being unreliable.
user Bernt Rostad / flickr

Several Detroit businesses are paying their employees to move to the city as part of a new incentive program called "Live Downtown."

Employees can get $20,000 dollars toward the purchase of a new home. Those who rent will get up to $3,500 for two years. Even employees who already live in the city can get money to make home improvements.

Here's a list of the 5 companies behind the new "Live Downtown" program:

Television remote control
user ppdigital / morguefile

A new reality show will focus on five Muslim families in Dearborn.

Filming is already underway for the new reality show “All-American Muslims.” The show will debut in November on TLC, the channel behind other reality shows like "Sister Wives" and "Kate Plus 8."

Ray Anthony Photography

The University of Michigan football stadium is cashing in on the ever-growing wedding industry.

The Big House is now available for weddings.

Couples can pay $6,000 to get ready in the home and visitor locker rooms, and then head to the field for an hour-long ceremony.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Zacks

Flint is in the spotlight on today's Artpod.

We talk a lot about Detroit’s path to revival, but drive an hour northwest to Flint and you’ll find a city whose struggles are similar if not worse than Detroit's.  Now a coalition of artists, city officials and residents is trying to re-write Flint's story through art.

Lemonade economics

Jul 21, 2011
Amelia Carpenter / Michigan Radio

(Here's a version of the story that aired on Michigan Radio.)

Turns out even lemonade stands aren’t immune to Michigan’s economic recession.

Molly and Lucy Prochaska have been in the lemonade business for the past five years. They sell lemonade, iced tea, and Arnold Palmers (50 cents for a small cup, $1.00 for a large.)  They also sell popsicles at fifty cents a piece, which is a new addition this year.

They’ve got a cash register, lots of signage. They're also located close to downtown, so there's a good amount of foot traffic from the Ann Arbor Art Fairs.

But 12-year old Molly says business just isn’t what it used to be:

MOLLY PROCHASKA: The first year was really nice, we got lots of money. But after that, when the economy started to go down we didn’t get as much money.

JENNIFER GUERRA: You think it had to do with the economy?

MOLLY PROCHASKA: Probably. People didn’t want to spend as much. They wanted to save their money.

The girls made around $200 their first year. Molly is saving up her lemonade money to buy a camera; Lucy wants to buy an iPad.

But it's not all doom and gloom at the lemonade stand. Molly says business this year is picking up a bit. She says that could mean one of two things: the economy's picking up, or more people are coming because it's "super hot out."

Also, side note, it looks like Molly and Lucy might have to step up their game now that a new lemonade stand popped up a block away. Not only is the new stand charging less for a cup, but they also use fresh lemons.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The new teacher tenure law that Governor Snyder signed this week makes it easier for school districts to fire teachers in classrooms where students are struggling.  As Rick Pluta reports, the law "eliminates discipline and layoff rules as a subject of collective bargaining with teachers unions."

The devil is in the details

Photo by penywise / morgueFile

The median income for Michigan households has dropped by more than $9,000 over the past decade. Only one other state, Hawaii, has seen a bigger loss in income.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

After 40 years in the business, the national bookstore chain Borders has officially called it quits.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Borders Books is officially going out of business.

The Ann Arbor bookstore chain issued a statement this afternoon saying the company Hilco and Gordon Brothers will "purchase the store assets and start the liquidation process." 

Borders Group President Mike Edwards:

Photo by ifmuth / Flickr

An estimated 500,000 people are expected to make their way to Ann Arbor this week for the city’s annual Art Fairs, which is technically made up of four separate art fairs.

The fair, which runs Wednesday, July 20 - Saturday, July 23, will display works by more than 1,100 artists.

user mconnors / morgueFile

A Michigan book publisher is using social media to update a popular 19th century publishing method made famous by Charles Dickens.

The University of Michigan Press will serialize two new novels using Facebook, beginning July 18.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

It’s been a busy 24 hours for Ann Arbor-based Borders: The bankrupt bookstore chain has gone from having a potential buyer to talk of liquidation.

The auction to sell Borders is still scheduled for Tuesday, July 19th.  But the lead bidder, known as a "stalking horse," has pulled out. That bidder was Najafi, a private equity from Arizona a firm.

Image courtesy of Rob Gorski

On today's Artpod, we'll hear from a New York physician who bought a remote, uninhabited island in Lake Superior. His plan is to turn it into an artist residency next summer.

The land, known as Rabbit Island, is about a half hour boat ride from the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

A quintet of musicians has been traveling across the state for the past 10 days. They don’t have a tour van or a u-haul stuffed with instruments. Instead, the guys are pedaling their bikes from Holland to Detroit…with their instruments in tow! They're also raising money for various charities along the way.

Dani Davis

A unique business accelerator opens today in Detroit. 

A lot of business accelerators, generally speaking, focus on internet startups and biotech companies. But with the new Creative Ventures Acceleration Program in Detroit, the spotlight is on creative industries:

"The industrial design world, the interior design world, fashion design, music production, video production and architecture."

An uninhabited island in Lake Superior will soon be home to an artist residency program.

New Yorker Rob Gorski saw the 91-acre island listed for sale on Craiglist. At first, he was skeptical. But after talking it over with his brother, both of whom are Michigan natives, they bought the island for less than $150,000.

The land, known as Rabbit Island, is about a half hour boat ride from the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s path to revival has been in the news a lot lately. Drive an hour northwest to Flint and you’ll find a city whose struggles are similar if not worse than Detroit's. But a coalition of artists, city officials and residents is trying to re-write Flint's story through art.

Flint's problems are pretty well documented: murders, arson, blight, poverty, massive police layoffs, and the dubious honor of being named one of the most violent cities in the country.

Plus there's Michael Moore's 1989 movie Roger & Me, which basically memorialized Flint's decline on the big screen. It's a movie Stephen Zacks would rather forget.

"People know Michael Moore, they know Roger & Me, so you respond to that question for your whole life. You keep answering the question: What's wrong with Flint?"

Jamila Nasser

As the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaches, a group of Arab American middle school students spent the past year documenting their lives and their community. Their stories are part of a new exhibit at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn.

user penywise / morgueFile

Several Detroit non-profits want to help potential small business owners get some much needed capital.

They’ve launched a microlending website called Kiva Detroit, an extension of the California-based Kiva.org. Small business owners post their idea online and anyone can give a loan for as little as $25. The site went live this Wednesday.

Photo courtesy of Toyota

Toyota is recalling 82,200 of its hybrid vehicles made in the United States.

The recall involves 2006 and 2007 Highland and Lexus brand SUVS due to possibly faulty wiring. The problem could cause the vehicles to lose power or shut off entirely.

Bill Visnick, with Edmunds.com, says this recall is significant, given how few hybrids are sold nationwide in a year.

He says the recall is kind of a black mark on hybrids, since a lot of people are wary about them to begin with:

Photo courtesy of Mosaic Youth Theatre

When the auto industry nearly collapsed a couple years ago, it had major ripple effect on the state’s arts and culture institutions. General Motors and Chrysler stopped contributing money to non-profit arts groups almost immediately. But now at least one of those auto companies is back in the giving game.

A look at how the ups and downs of the auto industry have affected Michigan's arts organizations.

The Detroit Three, aka the "Rocks of Gibraltar"

Up until a few years ago, it was hard to find an arts organization in southeast Michigan that didn’t rely on and receive generous amounts of money from the auto industry. We’re talking five or six-figure contributions.

Anne Parsons, president of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, says for decades GM, Ford and Chrysler were the corporate giants of philanthropy:

ANNE PARSONS: "They had been the “Rocks of Gibraltar” if you will, certainly our corporate giving."

JENNIFER GUERRA: "...and now?"

ANNE PARSONS: "Well I think it’s very different. They’re absolutely engaged corporate leaders, but I certainly think the impulse to knock on the door of one of the auto giants to have your problems solved or challenges met, I think those days are over."