Portrait of a family that overcame obstacles. Jamie Alexander, second from right, credits her Grandma Bobbie Lee, far right, with stepping in to help raise the kids when her mom, third from right, struggled through addiction.
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."
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?
One in four of Michigan's children lives in poverty conditions.
Bentley loves people. He’s usually wearing a big smile. He’s a joy. But his mother, Adrienne Crawford, admits he’s a lot of work, too.
“I took a three-minute shower" the other day, says Crawford. "And I came back and his bedroom was covered in baby powder. I don’t know why he did it. I guess it looks fun, just pouring white powder on the floor.”
Bentley has Down syndrome.
Shortly after he was born, Crawford remembers reading a book that forecast everything that could possibly go wrong in her young son’s life.
Going to college may soon get a lot easier – if you live in Tennessee.
The Tennessee Legislature is moving forward on a proposal that would offer two free years of community college enrollment to any high school graduate in the state. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam first introduced the idea during his state of the state speech in February. Haslam calls the plan the "Tennessee Promise" (sound familiar?). According to a fact sheet released by Haslam's office, about 25,000 students are expected to apply, at an annual cost to the state of about $34 million. Haslam proposes paying for the Tennessee Promise through an endowment created with state lottery funds.
"Tennessee will be the only state in the country to offer our high school graduates two years of community college with no tuition or fees along with the support of dedicated mentors," Haslam said in his state of the state address. "Net cost to the state, zero. Next impact on our future, priceless."
Former State of Opportunity intern extraordinaire Gabrielle Emanuel recently did a story for NPR that resonates with events in Michigan. Emanuel takes a look at states that provide options for families with more than two parents involved in a child's upbringing.
Role modeling and tutoring: Ulric Carter, left, Terrence Phillips, and Shevete Johnson help tutor students with their homework at the Finnigan Park Boys and Girls Club Power Hour after-school program during a U.S. Navy community relations project as part of the Houston Navy Week.
A new study on parental involvement with their kids' schooling is making the rounds. Keith Robinson (University of Texas at Austin) and Angel L. Harris (Duke University) wanted to find out whether parent involvement impacted academic achievement.
Here are the factors they looked at, according to Dana Goldstein, from The Atlantic:
The Annie E. Casey Foundation created an index of child-well being indicators, broke the results down by race, then ranked each state. This chart represents scores for African-American child well-being. Michigan is all the way on the right, third worst in the nation.
Credit Annie E. Casey Foundation, Race for Results report
The report is part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count series. Kids Count tracks a number of indicators – things like birthweight, school test scores, poverty level, and college attendance.
This new report includes 12 indicators in all, and they’ve been combined to come up with an index score for overall child outcomes. Those scores were then broken down by race, and each state was ranked.