What's Working

All throughout 2010, Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley asked people for their ideas on what we can all do to help our state.  This year, she'll find out What's Working.  Every week, we'll explore a new idea that's working to improve the state's economy and our lives. The series is called, "What's Working."

We want to hear your ideas!

Share your comments on our Facebook page, or tweet us @MichiganRadio with hashtag #WhatsWorking

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What's Working
11:28 am
Mon July 11, 2011

Improving Detroit, one neighborhood at a time

Five years ago, the Skillman Foundation began a project called “The Good Neighborhoods Initiative.’ The goal was to improve life for kids in six Detroit neighborhoods. Skillman asked the University of Michigan School of Social Work for help, so the school created the “Technical Assistance Center.”  That group serves as a resource for the neighborhoods as they enact change.

Professor Larry Gant is leading the U of M team. He spoke with us for our weekly series on Michigan Radio, "What's Working."

What's Working
11:21 am
Mon June 27, 2011

Clean Works Project

In our What's Working series, we hear about the Clean Works Project in Grand Rapids, MI. It runs a needle exchange program.
Robert Scales Flickr

All year, Michigan Radio has been talking with people about projects and efforts that are having a positive effect on the state. Today, we hear from Ruth Olsson, a long-time volunteer for the Clean Works project in Grand Rapids.  The main goal of the project is to reduce the rate of HIV.  To do that, it runs a needle exchange program where drug users can turn in used syringes, and pick up a clean one.

What's Working
6:31 am
Mon June 20, 2011

A 'Master Plan' for Midland's youth

The city of Midland has a plan.  A “Youth Master Plan.” It was created by educators, clergy, police, parents, and others in the community to help kids in Midland. As part of Michigan Radio's What's Working series, we speak with Dick Dolinski, one of the founders of the Plan.  He’s president of the Legacy Center for Student Success. For more information, and to contact Dick about starting a Master Plan in your community, click here.

 

What's Working
1:29 pm
Tue June 14, 2011

Michigan Innocence Clinic works to free those wrongfully convicted

David Moran is the co-director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School.
screen grab from YouTube video

Imagine being picked up by police for a crime you did not commit. You plead your innocence, but no one believes you.

Now imagine you're convicted and sentenced to prison for that crime.

For our What's Working series, Michigan Radio host Christina Shockley spoke with David Moran, the co-director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic.

The Clinic, at the University of Michigan Law School, aims to overturn the convictions of people who were wrongfully convicted.

It's estimated that 1,500 people currently in Michigan prisons were wrongfully convicted.

You can hear the interview with David Moran above.

And here's a video from the Michigan Innocence Clinic on the case of Dwayne Provience who spent ten years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

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What's Working
12:31 pm
Mon June 6, 2011

Hospital grows fresh produce for its patients

Eat more locally-grown, fresh fruits and vegetables
jamesjyu via flicker


There’s a big push these days to eat more locally-grown, fresh fruits and vegetables.  St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor has started a farm on its property to supply fresh produce to hospital patients, employees, and the community.  Bridget Bodnar reported on this story for Michigan Radio and she spoke with Morning Edition host Christina Shockley about it.

What's Working
6:00 am
Mon May 23, 2011

Trying to turn indoor shrimp farming into a large-scale industry in Michigan

Russ Allen is trying to get indoor shrimp farming to be a large-scale commercial industry in Michigan
Rust Bucket Flickr

You know about agriculture, of course.  But what about aqua-culture, or seafood farming? Russ Allen worked in shrimp farming for twenty years in Latin America. When he returned to his home-state of Michigan, he decided he wanted to create a method of aqua-culture that could be used anywhere in the world. He’s working on his dream in Okemos, just outside of Lansing. He’s been farming shrimp there for several years using a special, environmentally friendly method.

Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley spoke with Allen for Michigan Radio's What's Working series.

What's Working
6:29 am
Mon May 16, 2011

Education blueprint: North Godwin Elementary

user BES Photos Flickr

This week, What’s Working focuses on education by taking a look at one Michigan school that went from academic mediocrity to being a model for educational reforms in the state. North Godwin Elementary is located just south of Grand Rapids in a working class community with a high immigrant population. Many families in the area are refugees from countries such as Bosnia, Cuba, Vietnam, and Liberia. A high number of students spend a few years learning English as a second language. 

When Arelis Diaz arrived as a teacher at North Godwin Elementary in 1995, the students were struggling to reach proficiency in basic skills. She spent five years as a teacher, and then served as principal of the school from 2000 to 2005. In that time, North Godwin’s students began excelling on standardized tests, bringing student proficiency rates to upwards of 80 percent across all subjects. That academic success at North Godwin continues today. The school has been the recipient of praise and awards for its turnaround, including the “Dispelling the Myth” award in 2010, given by The Educational Trust. 

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What's Working
6:52 am
Mon May 9, 2011

What's Your Art?

2010 ArtPrize exhibit displayed in Grand Rapids
HarrisinMI / Flickr

This week, What’s Working is taking a trip to Grand Rapids to focus on the “What’s Your Art?” campaign. Many of us are familiar with the annual ArtPrize event held each fall in Grand Rapids, but there are many other art events taking place in the city throughout the year. The What’s Your Art? campaign aims to raise awareness of the many arts-based events held year-round in the Grand Rapids area.

Caroline Older is the Executive Director of the Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids, and she is overseeing the “What’s Your Art?” campaign. She says What’s Your Art is focused on supporting the culture of art in Grand Rapids more than any one specific event.

“The goal is a long-term goal, not a short-term answer. The impetus behind the What’s Your Art campaign came in the fall of 2008, when we all know the stock market tanked. It was a very tough time for lots of non-profit organizations, and the foundations in our area were looking at ways to try and help support arts organizations. And what we wanted to do was raise awareness about how incredibly rich this region is with its arts and cultural organizations. And we’re so thrilled that ArtPrize takes place, and we wanted to leverage the excitement that ArtPrize brings to the arts for the other forty-nine weeks of the year when ArtPrize isn’t taking place.”

Older says that, while What’s Your Art is still in its startup phase, there have been a number of factors that have contributed to the campaign’s success thus far.

“When we started it, we were very much hoping to help organizations drive some ticket sales. And who knew at that time that websites such as Groupon or, I think it’s LivingSocial, would be developed and be so successful at marketing last-minute ticket deals. And lots of arts organizations have ended up using those.”

Although What’s Your Art is a work in progress, Older says the campaign is developing ways of measuring its success as it evolves.

“In terms of measuring the success, we’re looking at how many people we have reading our e-newsletter which is growing exponentially each month. We have Facebook followers and we’re looking at how many additional Facebook followers we get each month, and the same thing for Twitter. And then of course we’re measuring how many visitors we get to the website, but, as I said, it’s all a work in progress. We’re very excited about the support that we’ve received from the foundations in town, particularly the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, in helping us with marketing and public relations needs in regards to this effort.”

Older says technology and social networks have proven themselves as effective ways to raise awareness about the arts. But she says people sometimes underestimate the various benefits a healthy art culture can have for a local community.

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What's Working
7:40 am
Mon April 25, 2011

Trying to improve Detroit's grocery stores

The Green Grocers Project is trying to improve the way food is sold in Detroit
Pneedham Flickr

All this year, Michigan Radio has been taking a weekly look at things that are working to improve the state. Today: we take a look at food and Detroit. The city has been called a “food desert,” because of its lack of grocery stores. One group has been trying to change that. Sarah Fleming is the program manager of the Green Grocer Project. It was launched a year ago by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and we asked her how it's going.

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What's Working
7:05 am
Mon April 18, 2011

Children focus in on nature

Pictured Rocks on Lake Superior
user Rhonda Noren Flickr

With the spread and advancement of home technology such as televisions, computers, cell phones, and video games, American children are spending less and less time outdoors. A baseball glove has been traded in for a remote control, and parents have gone from fretting over grass-stained jeans to fretting over their child’s apparent reclusiveness. Most kids today are more comfortable walking a parent through setting up Facebook account than they are walking through a forest. But the Udall Foundation, based in Arizona, is trying to reacquaint kids with the joys of exploring the natural world with their Parks in Focus program.

Parks in Focus is all about bridging the gap between technology and nature. Children, mostly middle school aged, are put in touch with Parks in Focus through the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and Big Brothers Big Sisters. After providing each child with a digital camera to document their explorations, Parks in Focus program leaders take the children on camping and hiking trips in some of America’s most scenic parks. While trips originally went only to the Grand Canyon, Parks in Focus has expanded to several other states, including Michigan.

Bret Muter is the Michigan Program Coordinator for Parks in Focus. He says digital cameras act as security blankets for the kids, allowing them to have a familiar piece of technology in an unfamiliar world of mountains, streams, and creepy crawlies.

“If kids aren’t comfortable with nature, they’re typically comfortable with technology such as a camera, even if they don’t own one. So cameras serve as that safety net for exploring the environment, which may otherwise be unfamiliar or even scary to some kids.”

On top of just making the children more comfortable with the initial shock of being out in the middle of the woods, Muter says the cameras allow the kids to interact with their surroundings more than they normally would.

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What's Working
9:50 am
Mon April 11, 2011

Day of service expands in Lansing

The Grand River in Lansing
user brianhef / flickr

This week’s guest for “What’s Working” is Julie Powers, the Director of the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council. Ms. Powers has been involved in the planning and organizing of a day of community service in Lansing, set to happen this year on May 14th. The event is entitled, “Adopt-Your-Place.”

Volunteers will be led by event organizers in such tasks as water testing and clean-up along the Grand River, planting and mulching public gardens throughout the area, clearing trails, repairing eyesores, and generally giving some TLC to local sites in need.

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What's Working
6:12 am
Mon April 4, 2011

Bike program for kids rolling in Kalamazoo

Ethan Alexander (far left) of the Open Roads Bike program speaks to a group of kids in Kalamazoo
Eric Sweet

This week, we’re changing it up a bit for our “What’s Working” series. Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley is welcoming Michigan Radio Reporter Kyle Norris into the studio to talk about a program in a Kalamazoo neighborhood that revolves around bikes.

Resident Ethan Alexander has organized a program called the Open Roads Bike Program, which teaches kids about bike maintenance. The children learn to perform a number of tasks involved in repairing and taking care of bikes. When they’ve completed all of the tasks, they are rewarded with a bike of their own.

But the bikes are not the only focus of the program. While learning how to take care of bikes provides the children with a sense of accomplishment and pride, Alexander makes sure the kids learn how to respect and get to know one another.

Kyle Norris recently attended a regularly held workshop event in the neighborhood called “Fixapalooza,” where she got to witness what the program has to offer first-hand. She says the atmosphere was similar to that of a block party, plus bikes – many, many bikes.

“It was a total party. There was Michael Jackson on a boom box, blasting. There was pizza. There was a dog running around. And there were a lot of kids, and adults, too, and bikes – bikes flipped over, adults working on bikes, kids working on bikes.”

The program got started when Edison neighborhood resident Ethan Alexander combined two things he had in excess: bikes and an understanding of how to work with children. Norris says it all got started about three years ago.

“He actually created it because he had a lot of bikes kicking around. I think he’s sort of a bike-head, so he had a lot of bikes. But he’s also a social worker, and he knows how to work with kids and get kids to work on their social skills and work on becoming better kids. So he kind of put the two loves together.”

The children who participate in the program don’t have to come very far to join in the fun, says Norris.

“Many of them come from this Edison neighborhood. They come, literally, down the street. Maybe single-family homes, maybe economically challenged.”

Alexander says the program gives the children a sense of confidence that they may not have in other areas of their lives.        

“A lot of these kids may not be successful in school. They may not be successful in other avenues. But you put a wrench in their hand, or you put a screwdriver in their hand, and that’s when they kind of light up, that’s when they get excited, and say, ‘Oh, I can do this. This is something I can do.’ And they’re valued and they start to believe in themselves and their abilities.”

After hanging out at Fixapalooza, Norris describes Mr. Alexander as a “zippy” guy. She says his leadership creates the atmosphere of respect.

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What's Working
6:15 am
Mon March 28, 2011

Michigan wine: Success in a bottle

Vineyard in Leelanau County
user farlane flickr

As we continue our “What’s Working” series this week, Christina Shockley sits down to speak with Linda Jones, the Executive Director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. Over the past decade, the wine industry in Michigan has grown ten to fifteen percent each year, with most of the wine being produced in the southwest and northwest regions of the Lower Peninsula.

With 14,600 acres of vineyards, Michigan ranks fourth amongst all states in grape production. Most of these grapes are used to make juices, but about 2,000 acres of vineyards are devoted solely to wine grape production, making Michigan the eighth largest producer of wine grapes. Ms. Jones says that when we talk about Michigan’s wine industry, we are really talking about the grape industry as well.

“They’re an integrated function. Many of the wineries in Michigan grow their own fruit. And our program is housed in the Michigan Department of Agriculture because wine is really an exemplary industry for value-added agriculture, meaning you take a crop that is grown here in Michigan and you add value to it on the farm property and attract customers to come and visit you, and that translates into a huge economic boom for that area when you can do that.”   

In a state that has seen its industries and population decline in the past decade, Michigan’s wine industry has continued to grow steadily. Jones says this is because wine production incorporates two of Michigan’s strongest assets.

“It combines our second and third largest industries: agriculture and tourism. Michigan is a long-standing fruit-producing state, especially on the west side of the state, but increasingly throughout Michigan we are planting wine grapes with new varieties that are being developed.”

But Michigan isn’t just good at growing fruit because we’ve been doing it for centuries. The climate in Michigan is particularly well-suited for growing grapes, says Jones.

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What's Working
12:05 pm
Mon March 21, 2011

Wind energy takes off in Michigan

user eXtension Ag Energy / flickr

Rick Wilson, the project manager for Heritage Sustainable Energy, is our guest this week as our “What’s Working” series continues. Based in Traverse City, Heritage Sustainable Energy is a wind power company that has been managing the installation of wind turbines in both the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan. Heritage is in the process of installing and expanding wind farms in the state, and is already producing roughly 40 megawatts of power.

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What's Working
12:44 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

Helping prisoners adjust to life after release

Tim Pierce, Los Gatos Creative Commons

This Monday, Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley sits down with Mary King as part of our year-long “What’s Working” series. King is the community coordinator in Washtenaw County for the Michigan Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative (MPRI). The MPRI aims to increase public safety and reduce crime and recidivism by providing supportive services to citizens recently released from prison. The services provided include assistance with locating housing, employment, substance abuse treatment, transportation, and mental health treatment.

In addition to helping released felons get back on their feet in their communities, Ms. King says the MPRI can produce financial savings for the state by reducing the number of prisons in Michigan. While there are many factors that contribute to fluctuations in the prison population, King says recently there has been a substantial decline in the recidivism rate in Michigan, thanks in part to the MPRI.

“What we do know is that returns to prison for people who have been released – which used to be about one for every two people that were released from prison were back within two years – that number has gone down to one in three.”

Before the MPRI came about, King says different agencies worked in local communities throughout the state to connect returning citizens with services they needed. Unfortunately, these localized efforts often lacked both communication with one another and an understanding of what services were most effective to reduce recidivism, says King.

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What's Working
11:46 am
Mon March 7, 2011

Old prison breathes new life

user djbuchanan / Flickr

For this week’s installment of “What’s Working,” Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley speaks with Judy Krasnow, resident and tour guide of the Armory Arts Village in Jackson. Located in what once served as Michigan’s first penitentiary, the Armory Arts Village is a residential community originally set up to provide living, working, and presentation space for artists.

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What's Working
12:51 pm
Mon February 28, 2011

Helping communities save money and the environment

the yes man / flickr

We continue our What’s Working series today with guest Sarna Salzman. She’s the Executive Director of SEEDS, or Seeking Ecology Education and Design Solutions.

SEEDS is a non-profit based in Traverse City that acts as an energy consultant for local businesses and municipalities. In addition, SEEDS hosts the northwestern Michigan branch of Youth Corps, which gets kids involved in projects such as cleaning up parks, organizing gardens, and spreading awareness about environmental issues. Last but not least, SEEDS works with local school districts to develop after-school programs aimed at ecological awareness.

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What's Working
7:20 am
Mon February 21, 2011

A Chocolate Lab who does his part to help Michigan's children

Amos, a Chocolate Labrador, provides support to child victims of abuse and neglect when they have to testify or be present in a courtroom
Photo courtesy of Dan Cojanu

For this week’s edition of our series “What’s Working,” Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley welcomes Dan Cojanu. He’s the Vice President and Program Director of the Canine Advocacy Program (CAP), based in Oakland County. Through the use of a Chocolate Labrador named Amos, the CAP provides support to child victims of abuse and neglect when they are required to testify or be present in court.

Cojanu begins by explaining how he began organizing the CAP. As he was preparing to retire from his job as the Supervisor for Victim’s Services in Oakland County in 2008, Cojanu decided that he wasn’t done with victim advocacy. Not only did he want to continue work with victims of crime, Cojanu says he also had a desire to work with dogs.

“I did a little research, and I wound up out in Seattle at the Courthouse Dogs Program. And once I was able to observe what these dogs bring to the court setting, to forensic interviews, I just got so excited that I had to bring this back to Michigan.”

When a child has to go before a court as a victim, Cojanu says the experience can be overwhelmingly stressful for his or her emotions.

“These children, when they come to court, the anxiety level, I don’t think it can be measured. They’re going to have to be in front of a bunch of adults who they don’t know, all strangers, and tell the most intimate details of a sexual assault or neglect or abuse or whatever. And it’s so frightening to these kids.”

When a trained service dog like Amos is introduced to the situation, though, Cojanu says the effects are phenomenal.

“You bring a dog into the picture and they have a whole new focus. They have a big cuddly Lab that they can do tricks with, take for walks. A lot of the kids will draw pictures of Amos, and it just brings that anxiety level so far down, that by the time they’re ready to go to court, they’re at least a little better prepared, certainly more relaxed. And it’s just phenomenal. And when they’re done, you know, Amos is there for a big hug.”

Occasionally, Amos has been allowed to sit beside children as they testify on the witness stand. That makes Amos the first dog ever permitted to sit beside someone as they testified in a Michigan courtroom.

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What's Working
12:04 pm
Mon February 14, 2011

Mixing high school coursework with vocational training

user Tech_Shop Flickr

This week, for our series “What’s Working,” Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley sits down with Karl Covert, the Dean of Washtenaw Technical Middle College.

Located on the campus of Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw Technical Middle College offers high school students the chance to complete their high school education in a college setting, while also earning either an associate’s degree or technical skill certification.

The Middle College was founded in 1997 by a group of educators who were concerned about two things: high school graduates being unprepared for college and a decreasing number of vocational training programs in the area.

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What's Working
2:41 pm
Mon February 7, 2011

Connecting Detroit's homeless with supportive services and housing

James Marvin Phelps Flickr

Each Monday, our Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley speaks with a Michigan resident about a project or program that is working to improve life in Michigan. The interviews are part of our year-long series, What’s Working.

Today, Christina sits down with Beverley Ebersold, the Senior Program Manager at the Michigan Office for the Corporation for Supportive Housing.

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