State of Opportunity

Wednesdays on Morning Edition at 6:35a/8:55a and during All Things Considered

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.

Genre: 

Podcasts

  • Thursday, April 17, 2014 12:49pm

    Well hello there! How have you been? It's been a while since my last post – three months, to be exact. I've been out on maternity leave and just got back to work and I have to say, I have a newfound respect for single parents.

  • Wednesday, April 16, 2014 6:00am

    Stories on State of Opportunity are all about ways to help disadvantaged kids find success in life. But when you meet a successful adult who grew up disadvantaged, they have a story that is like many others.

    They didn’t get where they are by accident. They worked hard, of course, but usually, they also had some help.  And often, that help can be traced back to one person who decided to make a difference.

    Today, we're starting an occasional series about the people who make that decision. We’re calling this series, "One Person Who Cared."  To share your own "One Person Who Cared" story, click here

    I met Jamie Alexander a couple of years ago. She’s a social worker for a program in Grand Rapids called Strong Beginnings, which helps African-American moms have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

    But on the car ride to one of her client’s homes, Alexander told me her own story.

    "My mom was a drug addict, an alcoholic," Alexander said. "And my dad was not around."

  • Monday, April 14, 2014 3:35pm

    This Thursday, we're shifting gears at State of Opportunity.

    For our call-in show, we want to talk with you and our invited guests about ways to help at-risk kids break the cycle of poverty. 

    People posting to our Facebook conversation so far have been adamant that schools and education are the way to give kids a better chance in life.

    Maybe.

  • Friday, April 11, 2014 2:23pm

    In the run-up to our call-in show for next week, we're looking for alternatives to schools as the solution for breaking the cycle of poverty for Michigan's children.

    The point is not that education isn't the answer, but what haven't we tried?

    Technology, as we've said before, has its costs and benefits. But when it comes to low-income kids and technology, the assumption is that no money equals no technology.

    That assumption is wrong.

  • Thursday, April 10, 2014 11:41am

    For the rest of this week and next, we're preparing for our upcoming call-in show

    We've focused a lot on schools and education because it's such a huge part of children's and parents' lives. After all, after age five, that's where kids spend most of their time and have formative experiences. 

    But when it comes to answering the big questions, do we rely too much on schools? What solutions do we overlook when we put all our eggs in the education basket? 

Education
1:23 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

Today's State of Opportunity call-in show tackles standardized testing

Michigan students may have more rigorous performance expectations on MEAP and other standardized tests.
Alberto G. / Creative Commons

Update: If you missed the program, you can catch the audio on this post.

Do at-risk kids have more on the line when it comes to testing? Are low expectations playing a part in poor test performance? How does the Smarter Balance test compare to the MEAP?

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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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Education
9:03 am
Wed March 27, 2013

$700,000 for baby scholarships

Tiffany Burns' daughter Yalana will be one of the first recipients of the new Early Start scholarship program.
Credit Dustin Dwyer

We think of scholarships as a way to help more students go to college. But there’s a new scholarship program in Michigan that has nothing to do with college. It offers scholarships to babies.

If you have a baby and you want to have a job, or you need to have a job, you have to find childcare. And childcare costs money—thousands of dollars a year.

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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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Education
11:11 am
Wed February 27, 2013

Head Start is not a failure

Sylus Sims practices writing his name at South Godwin Head Start.
Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The debate over federal spending cuts has made Head Start a major topic of conversation in Washington. Leaders from both parties warn that tens of thousands of kids will lose a chance at Head Start’s preschool program, if the across-the-board spending cuts are allowed to happen.

To some critics, cutting Head Start would be a good thing. They think it is a failure, and not worth the money. 

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Education
9:00 am
Wed November 28, 2012

How a Nobel Prize-winning economist became an advocate for preschool

economist James Heckman
heckmanequation.org

There's a growing consensus that more needs to be done to prepare children for kindergarten. 

But does preschool really have a significant impact on the lives of children? State of Opportunity's Dustin Dwyer recently sat down with economist James Heckman to find out.

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State of Opportunity
1:16 pm
Wed September 19, 2012

How to avoid burnout and help more people

Krista Nordberg, the Director of Advocacy for the Washtenaw County Health Plan.

Health insurance is such a political issue, talked about all the time and so dispassionately, that it can be easy to forget just how important it is to some families. But, last year the Census estimated paying for health care pushed at least 10 million Americans into poverty.

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State of Opportunity
11:52 am
Tue September 11, 2012

Census to release poverty numbers showing America likely back at 1965 levels

About one in six Michigan children live in poverty. Economic mobility studies show these children will have a difficult time climbing out of poverty within their lifetime.
Michael Newman flickr

State of Opportunity is covering tomorrow's announcement of poverty estimates by the Census Bureau. The numbers will show how many Americans lived in poverty during 2011.

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