Dustin Dwyer

Reporter/Producer

Dustin Dwyer is a reporter on the State of Opportunity project, based in Grand Rapids. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.

In 2010, Dustin left journalism to be a stay-at-home dad. Now that his daughter Irene is turning two, he's happy to be back at Michigan Radio, where there are far fewer temper-tantrums. 

Ways To Connect

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This is the third part in our documentary, The Hidden Epidemic. You can hear the full documentary on the air today at 3 p.m. and 10 p.m., or catch up online. Part one is here. Part two is here.  

It’s been a decade. Maybe more. Thousands have died. Many more had their lives destroyed. It’s been a national epidemic, but Michigan has been especially hard hit.

It’s an epidemic of drug addiction to opiates.

While Michigan has been one of the worst places for the epidemic, it has not been a place on the forefront of finding solutions.

Eugene Atkins was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for selling heroin that led to a young man's death.
courtesy of the Atkins family

 This is the second part in our documentary, The Hidden Epidemic. You can hear the full documentary on Michigan Radio on Thursday, July 16th at 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. Part one is here.

On October 27th, 1986, President Reagan signed a new law to fight drug use in America. Buried within that law were new penalties for those convicted of selling drugs. The premise behind these penalties was to get the most serious drug offenders off the streets, and send a message that dealing drugs in America is a crime that does not pay.

Eugene Atkins never got that message.

courtesy of Mary DeBoer.

This is the first part in our documentary, The Hidden Epidemic. You can hear the full documentary on Michigan Radio on Thursday, July 16th at 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. Or, subscribe to the State of Opportunity podcast on iTunes to hear each part as it’s released.

Mary DeBoer still remembers how it felt in the winter of 2004.

“Everything was fine,” she tells me, sitting at her kitchen table as the sun goes down behind her. “There was no threat or scariness that something was imminent, that something was going to happen.”

She remembers sitting at this same table, every night for family dinner. Every night at 6 o’clock sharp. No matter what else was going on, Mary, her husband and her three children would sit down here for dinner. Until their last night together, on December 14th, 2004.

Our friends at WBEZ partnered with the daily herald for an analysis of 10 years' worth of Illinois elementary school test score data. What they found is a relentless, strong correlation between test scores and parent income. Schools with the most students living in poverty had the lowest test scores, and vice versa. The correlation between test scores and parental income held for every income group, and it remained very consistent over time. Click through to see the graphs.

flickr.com/jeremywilburn

Last October, the Harvard Business Review published an essay on Hacking Tech's Diversity Problem.

The NPR Ed team asked reporters from 14 member stations for stories to help explain the nationwide rise in graduation rates. My colleague Jennifer Guerra contributed a story that may sound familiar to State of Opportunity listeners. Click through to see the app, and see Jennifer's work.

flickr.com/katerha

Over the weekend, The Washington Post published an analysis of every shooting death at the hands of a police officer since the start of the year. The Post found that the number of officer-involved shooting deaths is approaching 400 nationwide for the year, a number that's about twice as high as what you'd expect if you believe the existing statistics on deaths caused by police officers (most people don't). 

The Post has plenty of details within the numbers worth checking out, but still the most surprising part of this analysis is that it had to be done at all. Even with this analysis now available, it's clear that the number of things we don't know about violence involving police officers far outnumbers the things we do know. 

LBJ Library photo by Robert Knudsen

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson stood in the White House Rose Garden to announce a new program that would change the lives of millions of America's children. At the time, he called it "Project Head Start." 

"I believe that this is one of the most constructive, and one of the most sensible, and also one of the most exciting programs that this nation has ever undertaken," Johnson said of Head Start that morning. 

In the half-century since the announcement, millions of kids, and families, have received services through Head Start. The current annual cost of the program is nearing $10 billion. And yet there's huge disagreement even today about what Head Start has accomplished, or even should accomplish as its mission.

The Atlantic has a look at what seems like a huge shift in perception among Americans. Since 2001, the percentage of people who identify as lower- or working-class has jumped 15 percentage points in the U.S. Meanwhile, the number of people who believe they're in the middle class has dropped. Check out the piece for some thoughts on what this shift in perception could mean for the future.

There's an idea that's taken hold in the past few years about why it is that poor people, on average, eat less healthy food and have higher rates of obesity. The idea is simply that people in neighborhoods marked by poverty lack access to healthy food choices. Somewhere along the way (most likely starting in the U.K.) a person with an ear for good marketing decided to label these kinds of neighborhoods "food deserts."

Now, there's even a public service announcement dedicated to ending food deserts in the U.S.

The 2014 Farm Bill called for spending $125 million to attack food deserts by funding new stores or markets to sell fresh fruits and vegetables in low income areas. But this year, Congress decided to strip funding for the program

A new economic study argues this may have been the right decision. 

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