State of Opportunity

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.

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.

Homeless man
SamPac / creative commons

This week we aired a special State of Opportunity call-in program focused on disconnected youth. These are young people between the ages of 16 and 25, they're not in school and they're not working either.

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.

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.

user: dbphotography / Flickr

This week, State of Opportunity's Jennifer Guerra explored language and discrimination. She talked to Robin Queen, a linguist who teaches a class about it at the University of Michigan.

From Guerra's story:

Queen says people often think there's one right way to speak, what linguists call Standard American English, or "The Standard," and everyone else is doing it wrong.

"Who gets to decide they can police someone else's language?" asks Queen. "I mean, when did we get to this point that shaming people for their language is fine?"

Remember the George Zimmerman trial last year? You probably read headlines about it somewhere, or maybe watched coverage of it on TV.

If you got to hear any of the testimony, you may remember Rachel Jeantel. She's a young, African-American woman who was the primary witness for the prosecution, and was on the phone with Trayvon Martin on the day he died. 

When Jeantel began speaking, people both in and out of the courtroom focused on the way she spoke.

Why? 

Check out Guerra's piece. You can watch testimony from the Zimmerman trial and read about a study from MSU on language and discrimination that has some surprising results. 

-- Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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

 

Jennifer Guerra

For a kid caught stealing a $30 bracelet from a store,  juvenile court would likely be the next stop.

But a "teen court" program in Detroit gives some teenagers a chance to avoid the juvenile justice system. It's one of about 1,000 programs across the country.

The teen court model still doles out consequences for kids who break the law, but the idea behind it is less about punishment and more about getting kids on the right path. Teenagers are involved in every aspect of the program. They are "lawyers" and "jury members," not just defendants.

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.

Jennifer Guerra from the State of Opportunity team talks to one young man who says advice from his mom and hope for his brothers made a difference in his decision to leave gang life behind.

State of Opportunity Reporter Dustin Dwyer shares his thoughts on why a viral video of hockey player Jordin Tootoo giving his stick away to an eagerly awaiting kid makes him sad. It has to do with the young woman in the upper right part of the frame.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

At the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, 11-year-old Brianna Allgood is being tested by a machine called a spirometer. It measures her breathing.

Brianna has asthma. Sometimes she has difficulty breathing. Most of us would have a hard time imagining what that’s like.

“It feels like your chest starts tightening and you’re like and you can’t really breathe much air,” Brianna said. 

Vickie Elliot is Brianna’s grandmother. She says she finds herself checking in on Brianna – a lot – just to make sure she’s breathing okay.

“Having a child like that in the home is scary because anything could happen,” Elliot said.

Brianna is luckier than some kids with asthma. Her family can get her to the clinic. They now know how to treat the asthma.

Elliott says it’s made a difference.

At 3:00 p.m today you can tune into Lester Graham's documentary, "Growing up in poverty and pollution," produced for State of Opportunity. Or, you can listen to the compelling stories these families anytime over at State of Opportunity.

Brianna Allgood gets a checkup on her asthma.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Children growing up in poverty face huge challenges. One challenge that might not come to the top of the mind, though, is pollution.

As part of Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project, reporter Lester Graham spent the past three months exploring the problem.

His documentary, "Growing up in Poverty and Pollution," will air tomorrow at 3 p.m. on Michigan Radio.

Lester joined us today to talk about his project.

*Listen to the audio above.

R. Kurtz / flickr

We're getting ready for a new project here at State of Opportunity, and we're excited about it.

We'll take the experiences of families in towns and cities around the state and turn them into useful news – the kind of news that usually travels between two people when they talk about the way things really work.

Part of what makes this project work are stories and insights from you and the people you know. 

Right now, we're looking for stories about taxes.

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Update: The office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued the following statement to Michigan Radio," After a thorough review of Mr. Sanchez-Ronquillo's case. The agency has granted a one-year Stay of Removal." We are updating our earlier story now. 

Charlie is seven years old, a second-grader at an Ann Arbor elementary school. Over the last week, his picture has been all over facebook. It's also on flyers and email as his church and parents at his school try to organize around his family.

Read the updated story at State of Opportunity.

 

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

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At the start of our State of Opportunity Project we spoke with Leatrice Fullerton, a single mother with two children.

She earned a master’s degree in social work, but had difficulty finding employment when we last spoke with her. Fullerton also faces the additional challenge of being blind. The good news is that she now has two part-time jobs. 

Today, Fullerton participated in a Google chat hosted by President Obama. She asked the president what his plans were for including people with disabilities in the work force. 

All Things Considered host Jennifer White spoke with Fullerton.

Alberto G. / Creative Commons

The MEAP test has been used to evaluate kids and schools in Michigan for over four and a half decades.

The test is meant to make sure public schools are teaching kids the basics. But MEAP scores affect where parents decide to send their kids, neighborhood housing prices, city tax revenue, and city services.

Basically, the economics of a city rests on how well 8 and 9-year-olds perform on this single test.

State of Opportunity's Dustin Dwyer spent six weeks inside Congress Elementary in Grand Rapids, a school with consistently low MEAP scores. Dwyer followed a third-grade class as they prepared to take the test. He interviewed students, teachers, and parents, trying to figure out how much these numbers matter. What he found was, the test scores do not even begin to tell the story.

To hear the documentary now and learn more, visit the State of Opportunity website. 

Dustin Dwyer and Kimberly Springer from our State of Opportunity team share "five teasers" about the upcoming documentary on high-stakes testing. The documentary will air (and be online) this Thursday.

Here's one thing that Dwyer will explore in the documentary: How the "bad" label can harm a school in an otherwise wealthy district.

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?

None of the people State of Opportunity talked to about their good deeds want the focus to be on them. Instead, to a one, they just hope to inspire others, who are moved by stories they hear on the radio, to take action. Michael Mulvihill of Seattle is one of those people. He heard Dustin Dwyer's three-part series on gun violence in Muskegon on his local public radio station. Click through to the State of Opportunity website to find out what Mulvihill did when heard about Carmesha Rogers and her efforts to save three children from gun fire in her neighborhood.

user myeyesinthemirror / deviantart

For the next few days we're featuring stories of ordinary listeners who read or heard a story on State of Opportunity and decided to give some of their resources or time as a result. We know many of you have done the same. If you've got a story to share or an idea of how people could help let us know here. If you need ideas of what you could do, check out the resources page. We'll update it with  listener suggestions as they come in.

One of the big reasons people pause in their lives and reach out to someone else is because they feel emotionally moved by someone's story.

That happened to an Ann Arbor woman after hearing the story of Keisha Johnson on Michigan Radio.

In her piece "Life on public assistance, a personal story," Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra introduces us to Johnson who is working hard to create a good home for her children - something Johnson didn't always have as a child.

Judy and her husband were getting ready for their day in their home. But they paused to hear the story: 

"After I heard that, I said to him, you know, something really is motivating me to try to meet this woman."

And so she did. Head on over to the State of Opportunity site to hear more about Keisha and Judy's friendship.

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