Policy
12:01 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

One weird trick that's proven to help prevent violence in your neighborhood

Credit flickr/thomashawk

Virginia Commonwealth University's  Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development has a lot of research projects aimed at helping young people succeed.

One of those projects is a community surveillance system that tracks ambulance calls, emergency room visits, and other data to track levels of violence across neighborhoods in Richmond, Virginia.

In 2003, researchers from the Institute reported to local community members on a not-so-surprising correlation they'd discovered: Rates of violence were higher near convenience stores that sold "inexpensive, single-serve alcoholic beverages."

A paper published by Institute researchers last year described what happened next: 

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Families & Community
6:44 am
Wed September 10, 2014

"I want people to not be afraid to reach out and help someone else."

Joy Mohammed and Paris Brown
Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

People who manage to overcome poverty in childhood don't succeed by accident. They work hard, of course, but usually, they also have some help.  And often, that help can be traced back to one person who decided to make a difference.

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

Joy Mohammed and Paris Brown are loosely connected through family. They met once at a wedding. Then they became neighbors in the Russell Woods neighborhood of Detroit. Mohammed, who is nine years older than Brown, helped tutor her with schoolwork, and checked up on her at her house.

"I wouldn’t call myself a visitor. I was snooping," Mohammed says with a laugh. "I was watching to make sure that the kids were okay."

"Were you?" I ask Brown.

"Um, no …"

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Families & Community
12:22 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

Did you experience foster care in Michigan? We want to hear from you.

Credit user Peter Lindberg / flickr

There are more than 13,000 youth in foster care in Michigan at any given time. There's no way we could possibly interview anywhere close to that number, but if we could, we would no doubt hear some heartwarming stories about being in care, some horror stories, and everything in between. 

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Families & Community
12:18 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

It's not just you. New data confirms economic recovery not reaching most families

Credit photosteve101 / flickr

The release of new economic data is about as exciting as spam email.

The New York Times Upshot blog makes the case that the newest set of data is something to spend some real time with, so here we go:

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Families & Community
11:13 am
Fri September 5, 2014

Friday news roundup: Camden renewal, suburban poverty, and elite colleges

Credit user photosteve101 / flickr

If you're like me, you probably don't have a lot of spare time. So in an effort to make things easier for you, here's a roundup of some articles from the week that our State of Opportunity team found interesting. Happy reading!

How one poor inner city managed to turn things around

I've been thinking about this story from the New York Times all week. It's a story about hope and renewal. Just about everybody – politicians, police, residents – had written off Camden, N.J. In the summer of 2012, there were 21 murders in Camden, the highest homicide rate in the city's history. Fast forward two years, and the homicide rate this summer was six. 

It has been 16 months since Camden took the unusual step of eliminating its police force and replacing it with a new one run by the county. Beleaguered by crime, budget cuts and bad morale, the old force had all but given up responding to some types of crimes.

The results are encouraging. Read the full article to see how Camden is fast becoming an example of how it's not impossible to turn things around.

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Research
1:28 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

It's important to believe hard work matters more than intelligence, because it could make it true

Facepalm moments might not be all bad. It depends on how you look at these "mindset messages" says new research from Michigan State University.
Credit potomon / flickr

Michigan State University has a new study out about "mindset messages," or how what we believe can change how well we can do.

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Education
8:38 am
Wed September 3, 2014

When you want to play, but you have dreams that require work

Musa, a new fourth-grader.
Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

On the last lazy Sunday of summer, Musa lies down on the living room floor to play with his cat Romeo. Later today there will be shopping for school clothes, and maybe some time to play. But for now, Musa just hangs out, not using any more energy than is absolutely necessary.

"Tell me about your summer," I say.

"It was all right," he says.

"What’d you do?"

"Uh, nothing really," he says. "I just really played outside."

"Did you have fun?"

"Yeah."

"Did you forget everything you learned in third grade?"

"Nope."

"Are you looking forward to going back to school?"

“A little.”

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Families & Community
1:11 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Want out of poverty? Move.

Credit flickr/heatherweaver

In the summer of 1994, my family hitched a U-Haul trailer to the back of my mom's Ford LTD station wagon and drove it to the other side of the country. We went just about as far as you can go without a passport – from the coast of Oregon to central Florida. 

In Oregon, we were surrounded by friends and family, but we were poor. We lived in a public housing project. We paid for our groceries with food stamps. My mom was a part-time community college student, with a daycare business on the side. My dad worked on the back of a fishing boat. My mom wanted to get her bachelor's degree. My dad wanted a job with more stability. Neither could find what they were looking for in North Bend, Oregon in 1994. So we moved. 

The move took us from the mild, rain-soaked Pacific Northwest to the sweltering humidity of the Florida summer in a matter of weeks. I had to learn how to say things like "y'all" and "my bad." I ate grits, and I didn't like them. I missed my old friends, and I was a complete, awkward failure at making new ones. 

It was the best thing that ever happened to me. 

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Education
12:37 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

What can parents do to help close the achievement gap?

Credit user Andrew Taylor / Flickr

Thousands of children across Michigan will start kindergarten next week, and the truth is many of them won't be prepared to learn. For many low-income children, this will be their first time in a classroom, so they're playing catch-up from the start. From there it's a short hop, skip and jump to a full-blown achievement gap between low-income kids and their more wealthy peers by the time they're in middle school.

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Education
12:09 am
Thu August 28, 2014

In a Michigan classroom, immigrants learn about English and acceptance

One of the students presents a local business brochure made in her class for English Language Learners.
Credit University of Michigan

The federal government is still trying to find temporary shelter for the thousands of children who have fled from Central America, often by themselves. Some of them are met by protesters shouting the children are not welcome in this country.

But in Ann Arbor, a summer school program for English Language Learners is trying to give immigrant kids the opposite message; that they are valuable members of the community with something to teach. 

Unfortunately for the kids, they have to go to summer school to get this message. For many kids, possibly these 10 kids included, summer school is the worst. These students, who range in age from 10 to 14 years-old, are stuck inside a classroom at Scarlett Middle School while the sun shines through the windows.

But this summer program is just one of many things these young people willing to do to succeed in school, and in this country. They’re all here because English is not their first language and they want to improve. They all have different goals. Some want to work on spoken language, others are working on writing English, still others on reading it.

All of these students bring different skills and life experiences into the classroom. Some are recent immigrants or refugees, others have been here a while. They are from places as different as Syria, China and Costa Rica. 

Public schools are required to offer educational opportunities for students who don’t speak English as a first language. This summer class is one offering and the school district, in partnership with the University of Michigan, is trying to inspire these young people. Debi Khasnabis helped design this curriculum. She says she’s trying to make summer school better- through being a place where students can find some value in whatever it was that brought them to this class and what also led to them needing to learn English.

Khasnabis wants them to realize that their experience as immigrants means they bring resilience and skills to the table.

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