Chicago One Summer

The psychological tolls of poverty are legion. For those within its grasp, it alters every aspect of existence, from decreased health outcomes and mental illness, to increased risk of physical violence and a higher probability of being locked up in jail—it’s even been found that the chronic stress of growing up in poverty has impaired children’s brains chemistry.

We also know the vicious cycle of poverty is hard as hell to break out of, particularly when it comes to finding and keeping a job.

Photo courtesy of Nate Smith-Tyge

Regular State of Opportunity readers and listeners can probably rattle off a list of different barriers low-income, first-generation, and/or homeless college students face on campus. One that often goes unnoticed and forgotten is something too many college students face on a daily basis: hunger.

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They say it's 11 million people. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers. People who are living in the United States without a piece of paper to prove they have the legal right to do so. 

The people who are charged with writing laws have so far come up with no law that can solve this problem. But there are ideas. One idea in particular seems to be getting a lot of air time lately: Just round up all these 11 million people and send them away. 

Let's try to imagine what that would look like. 

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

We first told you about Ireana Bernal in our documentary, College Material. Today's story is an update

This is a story of a dream on the verge of coming true and of what comes after.

It’s a story of a young woman in Holland, about to start her first semester of college.

I first met Ireana Bernal about a year ago. She was just starting her senior year in high school. Her high school years started out rough, but she’d been trying to turn it around. She still wasn’t sure how it would turn out. But the people around her all believed in her. People like her counselor, Mitch Veldkamp.

"She has this self will," Veldvamp told me. "Something in her that’s a little fire that started," he said.

That little fire grew all last year, as Bernal applied for college. 

It’s been months since I’d talked to Bernal. We met at a coffee shop in downtown Holland, right across the street from Hope College.

This is where she will be starting school next week.

EdBuild / US Census, 2006-2013

In the aftermath of the Great Recession the number of students living in poverty is continuing to increase. That is the key finding of seven years of data taken from every public school district in the country. This data was organized geographically by EdBuild, a new national nonprofit focusing on funding for public education.

Shifting Demographics

user John Patrick Robichaud / flickr

We've said it before, but it bears repeating: filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, or the FAFSA, can be a pain in the butt. But at this point, there's no way around it. If you're hoping to get some federal grants or financial aid to help offset the costs of college, then you're going to have to fill it out.

As my colleague Dustin Dwyer noted in a story he did earlier this year, even the U.S. Department of Education acknowledges there are serious problems with our country's financial aid system.

Kashfi Halford / Flickr Creative Commons

 Michigan has more reasons now than ever before to consider juvenile justice reform. Something to add to the list: a report released this week by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The report zeroes in on what deters kids from committing crimes in the first place. Most of what we know about recidivism is based on adults. Very few studies have been done with juveniles – until now.  

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Bettina Love is an author, scholar and education professor at the University of Georgia.  She is also an upcoming fellow at the W.E.B Dubois Research Center at Harvard University

I came across a talk by Love today, and, well, it kind of blew me away. I've been thinking for a while now that hip-hop is an under-utilized tool in schools. But Love's argument here is the strongest case I've seen so far. It's worth watching 'til the end. 

flickr.com/jvalasimages

Three years ago this month, a new federal program got underway that’s since affected the lives of more than half a million young Americans – thousands of whom live in Michigan.

The program came with a characteristically bureaucratic acronym. And, like many things done by the federal government, it’s been controversial.

The program is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. 

Maybe it didn’t have a huge impact on your life at the time. But Liz Balck Monsma remembers how it affected hers.  

"It was a crazy time, three years ago," she says, "when we were just trying to get as many kids screened and processed as possible."

Erica Szlosek / Wikimedia Commons-https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

Strengthening the child tax credit would help level the playing field for families, particularly communities of color.

That is one key finding according to new report by the Center for American Progress:

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