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April Van Buren

Community Engagement Director

Credit Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

April Van Buren is Community Engagement Director for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project. She produces features and Stateside segments for the project and coordinates State of Opportunity's live events.

Before landing at Michigan Radio, April worked as a producer for Current State at WKAR where she helped launched the station's Pop-Up Stories project. She also worked as a reporting intern and producer at WBEZ in Chicago. Her very first public radio gig was as an intern here at Michigan Radio.

April graduated from Harvard University in 2012 with the most liberal artsy of liberal arts degrees. She is a die-hard 30 Rock fan and once saw Tina Fey do the chicken dance at a party.

teacher in elementary classroom
User woodleywonderworks / Flickr- http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Children with special needs are entitled to a “free and appropriate education” under federal law. What that looks like varies from district to district.

All schools, though, are required to make a plan for how a student will be educated. This is called an Individual Education Plan, or “IEP."   

So, what happens when a parent and a school district disagree on what that plan should look like? Melody Arabo has spent the past year finding out.

building missing windows
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Neighborhoods matter.

A big part of the reason why is that good neighborhoods usually have better schools.

 

three women and one man with microphone
April Van Buren / Michigan Radio

That's the question we explored at our latest State of Opportunity live event. 

We had a full house at the Cook Library Center in Grand Rapids on Thursday for "Stories From the Shadows." The evening included personal stories from undocumented immigrants living in Grand Rapids as well as a panel discussion about the most pressing issues facing that community.  

State of Opportunity reporter Dustin Dwyer moderated the conversation with our three panelists: 

mosaic mural of man reading
takomabibelot / flickr

Summer Mondays can be hard.

Maybe you spent all weekend on the beach at Lake Michigan or you're already thinking about your upcoming vacation. Either way, it takes a little while to get back in the groove of the work week.

I find the best way to cut through the summer brain fog is by learning something new. Think of it as warm-up exercises for your brain.

I compiled a few of the most interesting reads the State of Opportunity team came across this past week. So pour yourself another cup of coffee and do a few mental jumping jacks to get the week started. 

Stories From the Shadows: Life as an undocumented immigrant

Thursday, August 18, 6:30-8:00

Cook Library Center

1100 Grandville Ave. SW

Grand Rapids, MI

49503

-Free admission-

 

The debate over immigration in America is heated. And it's become a major talking point in this year's presidential election. But beyond the headlines, what is life really like for undocumented immigrants in Michigan?

 

three young men in front of poster board
April Van Buren / Michigan Radio

The world hit a grim milestone this year. There are now more than 60 million refugees worldwide. That's the highest number ever recorded. The U.S. will accept 85,000 of them in 2016. 

The global humanitarian crisis has led to a heated political debate in Michigan, which is one of the top states for refugee resettlement in the country. But  advocates say that debate often overlooks the benefits that refugees bring to the communities where they settle.  

two young kids reading a book
Thomas Life / Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/7SpXkV

What was your favorite book as a kid?

For me, it was Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. I’d take it with me to school, to sleepovers, to the park. I read it so many times that I can still recite some of the poems by heart. 

But for poor children, books aren’t so easy to come by.

young children in classroom
BLOOMBERRIES / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0 / FLICKR

The first three years of a child's life are really important. Every experience and interaction builds connections in the brain that can last a lifetime. The more enriching the environment is, the better the brain develops. 

For working parents, this means that finding high-quality child care is essential. But quality doesn't come cheap. Day care can cost almost as much as in-state college tuition. The state of Michigan does provide a financial subsidy for child care, but it is reserved for the poorest of the poor. 

child at desk
PIXABAY USER PICJUMBO / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Question: What do Steve Jobs, Whoopi Goldberg, and Steven Spielberg have in common?

Answer: Dyslexia.

The neurologically based learning disability impacts an estimated one in five Americans. And while people with dyslexia have normal intelligence, they face significant challenges in learning how to read and write. As you might imagine, that can have a big effect on academic outcomes.

mom and four kids
April Van Buren / Michigan Radio

Foster care is supposed to be a temporary fix. When a child ends up in state care, the first goal is to reunite them with their birth families. But only about half of the 13,000 children in Michigan’s child welfare system every year end up going home. A small group of parents in Washtenaw County wants to change that. 

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