Sarah Alvarez

Public Insight Journalist

Sarah is the Senior Producer/Public Insight Analyst at Michigan Radio. Her job is to encourage people to share what they know and become sources for Michigan Radio and to help tell those stories.

Before coming back to Michigan and jumping into journalism Sarah was a civil rights lawyer in New York and a consultant to social justice organizations in California. She graduated from the University of Michigan, Columbia Law School and the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.

She lives in Ann Arbor with her wonderful husband and three wonderful, busy kids.

 

Ways To Connect

user Samahiaka18 / wikimedia commons

When former Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan took the job as head of Michigan's Department of Human Services in 2011, she made it clear she would only serve for four years. Her time is up and she's stepping down Jan. 1. 

DHS is responsible for serving some of Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens. The agency is in charge of foster care, food assistance for Michigan’s hungry, welfare benefits, and child care licensing, among other things.

Director Corrigan has been widely credited for making strides on improving the child welfare system during her tenure. That system is still under federal court oversight assigned in 2008, but the state has asked a judge to re-examine that status. 

Eva Petoskey

State of Opportunity's Jennifer Guerra talks to members of two Michigan tribes about the incredibly high rate of suicide among young American Indians. It's a devastating issue some say is fed by a community level sense of hopelessness and "code of silence."

Read or listen to the entire story at State of Opportunity.

Jennifer Guerra from the State of Opportunity team checks in with members of two Michigan tribes about some of the issues faced by the young people in their community.

Jennifer Guerra from the State of Opportunity team checks in with members of two Michigan tribes about some of the issues faced by the young people in their community.

Wrapping up a lot of coverage from State of Opportunity on foster care is a story about adoption from that system. It can be a bumpy road for families and kids, and if an adoption doesn't work out it can be a tragedy for a child. But now more than ever there are people and programs out there to help families make those adoptions truly permanent.

This summer the news was full of the stories of children who fled to the U.S. because of violence in Central and South America. Here is one of those stories, 7 years later. From Dustin Dwyer and State of Opportunity.

Three of Michigan Radio's projects: MI curious, State of Opportunity, and Infowire, have come together to report a story about children's mental health. Here's the result.

Dustin Dwyer sat in on a "know your rights" training this week that was really a forum on how young black people can survive interactions with police.

One of the most famous studies about how important impulse control is gets called the "marshmallow study." Enter the "cookie monster study," about how to actually teach kids that impulse control. And, more importantly what not to do.

Dustin Dwyer reports on lower homicide rates in cities across the state. But there's a caveat. "We have to be careful about getting excited before we can see if it’s a one-year blip," says Wendy Regoeczi, director of the Criminology Research Center at Cleveland State University.

images money / flickr

Here's how the scam works: A Michigan school might get a fake bill for new “Common Core standards aligned” language arts materials. The bill isn't huge; it’s always been reported as $647.50, so it might slip under a school’s radar.

Lisa Dilg works at the Eastern Michigan Better Business Bureau. She says the other reason the scam might work is because the fake invoices closely resemble invoices from a known education materials supplier.

State of Opportunity is running an occasional series about the people who make the decision to try to tackle childhood poverty one kid at a time. We’re calling this series, "One Person Who Cared."

Dustin Dwyer profiles the Goodson family in this weeks State of Opportunity feature. Stacy Goodson says, "If a child showed up at your doorstep, hungry, needing somewhere to live, you would let them come stay with you. ... we sign up to be the doorstep that they show up on."

Excellent Schools Detroit tries to help parents navigate the educational landscape in Detroit. Dan Varner heads up the group, and says the amount of choice is simply overwhelming. Dustin Dwyer sat down with Varner to learn more about what he thinks can help and how Varner got to where he is.

Crime is down in Flint, but the city has still seen more than 800 violent crimes since the beginning of the year. State of Opportunity has the story of two young people trying to deal with the effects of all that violence, and the mentors trying to help them.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

A group of organizations in Detroit announced that today they got official word they'll be sharing around $50 million in federal funds over the course of five years for early childhood education programs.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

At the beginning of the school year, Jennifer Guerra spent a lot of time at two different schools for her documentary, The Education Gap. One of the schools had plenty of resources, the other did not.

Jen went back to the school where poverty is a real struggle for nearly all of the students. There have been some changes since she last visited. For example, school officials now say its OK for us to identify the school on air (we refer to the school as School X in the documentary.) 

It's Myers Elementary in Taylor. But whether it's referred to as School X or Myers, the school is still caught in the nexus of having few tools to deal with some of society's most complicated problems. 

But there have been several smaller, more personal victories. The principal has convinced some kids that college is an option they can and should be serious about. And some of the kids hungry for more challenging academics have gotten more attention. 

Read and listen to what difference a year makes at State of Opportunity

 

Michigan Supreme Court
photo courtesy of the MI Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled a practice by the state's child welfare system is unconstitutional. 

Yesterday the State Supreme Court struck down a 12-year-old rule they said violated the constitution because it allowed the state to punish both parents for abuse or neglect of a child for whom only one parent was responsible, even when parents were not living together.

Andrew Stawarz / flickr

Denise Gleich is a 30-year veteran of the restaurant industry in Michigan.

She's raised three daughters on the wages and tips she earned, but says the industry has changed and she wants out. 

Tipped workers will make 60% less than minimum wage under legislation Governor Snyder signed into law on Tuesday. 

The majority of tipped workers are women.

I took the State of Opportunity story booth to a recent gathering of women talking about economic security.

Gleich was the first woman to walk into that room.

Read and listen to her story here.

Jennifer Guerra visits a Catholic High School using an apprenticeship model to give their students a competitive advantage.

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