State of Opportunity

8:18 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

Homicides are down in Michigan, but is it fair to call it a trend?

Lead in text: 
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.
The numbers are down 30% in Flint. They were down 70% in Saginaw through July. Down 66% in Grand Rapids through June. Down 14% in Detroit, and on pace for the lowest annual total in decades. The reports are preliminary, but homicides in many of Michigan's cities are way down compared to last year.
9:37 am
Wed August 13, 2014

What makes a kid "hard to place" in a foster home, and who is willing to take them?

Lead in text: 
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."
Rosslyn Bliss leads the way across a boardwalk on a five-acre piece of land on the north side of Grand Rapids to a one-story light-brown building. This building is an emergency shelter for kids who've been removed from their home by the state. "We serve ...
1:30 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

A vision for how to make school choice work better in Detroit

Lead in text: 
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.
Dan Varner went to law school, dreaming he could change the world. When he got out, he got a job at a firm that handled class-action discrimination lawsuits. "Got what I thought was a great job at a great firm," he says. "And became one of many unhappy attorneys."
10:41 am
Wed July 30, 2014

Violence is everywhere, and these young people in Flint have had enough.

Lead in text: 
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.
The Haskell Youth Center is on the front lines of violence prevention in Flint. They don't use a complicated formula; there are just plenty of positive activities and positive adults. On any given day there are about 200 kids spread throughout the game room, the cafeteria, and a gym where the basketball games never seem to stop.
Families & Community
1:31 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

Do you judge people based on the way they speak?

Credit 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

Education
3:08 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

For school featured in "The Education Gap," some victories and more challenges

A recess time basketball game at Meyers Elementary in Taylor.
Credit 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

 

Law
1:59 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

Second chance for a clean record in "teen court"

A teen court program in Detroit works to keep kids out of the juvenile justice system.
Credit 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.

Read more
Families & Community
10:34 am
Wed May 28, 2014

Here's what it's like to live off tips in Michigan

Credit 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.

2:12 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Do your homework or hold down a job? How about both.

Lead in text: 
Jennifer Guerra visits a Catholic High School using an apprenticeship model to give their students a competitive advantage.
School is almost over for the year, and one Detroit high school has lots to celebrate. The entire graduating class has been accepted to college. Nearly all
11:49 am
Wed May 7, 2014

How one teen escaped gang life in Detroit

Lead in text: 
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.
Gang life is a reality for a lot of kids who live in poor neighborhoods. There are parts of Detroit, for example, where gangs run the blocks. Here's the
12:28 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

The video of a happy kid makes one reporter a little sad

Lead in text: 
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.
It's 16 seconds of condensed, unadulterated joy. The boy stands on a bench, as hockey player Jordin Tootoo approaches, headed for the locker room. "Tootoo!
Families & Community
11:41 am
Fri April 25, 2014

Getting treatment for asthma is difficult for children living in poverty

Mary Kim helps Jovon White take his asthma medication.
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.

Read more
2:51 pm
Thu April 24, 2014

State of Opportunity documentary: Growing up in poverty and pollution

Lead in text: 
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.
In Michigan, thousands of kids suffer with diseases that are worsened by poverty and pollution. It's a combination that's costing society far more than
Environment & Science
5:37 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Lester Graham's upcoming documentary, "Growing up in Poverty and Pollution"

Brianna Allgood gets a checkup on her asthma.
Credit 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.

Families & Community
1:37 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

State of Opportunity has a new project and needs your tax stories

Credit 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.

Read more
Education
9:35 am
Wed February 5, 2014

Student and school prepare for a father's deportation

Charlie and his family
Credit facebook

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.

Offbeat
5:29 pm
Fri January 31, 2014

Michigan woman discusses employment, disabilities with President Obama

Leatrice Fullerton and her two kids.
Facebook

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.

Education
2:26 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

State of Opportunity's hour on what it's really like in a "low-performing" school

Michigan students may have more rigorous performance expectations on MEAP and other standardized tests.
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. 

Education
5:33 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

A quick preview of our documentary on high-stakes testing

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.

Read more
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?

Read more

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