Dustin Dwyer


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. 

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Umpqua Community College

Today is my day to write a blog post here. We keep a schedule. It's my turn. I should have gotten it done earlier in the day. Then I wouldn't have to write about another school shooting. 

I've been listening to live coverage from the TV stations in Oregon for the past hour. I've been refreshing my Twitter feed, and reading the comments on Reddit. I've learned nearly nothing. 

Except: At least seven people are dead. At least 20 are wounded. The shooting happened at a school, a community college in a rural part of southwest Oregon. 

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 As you may have noticed from the wall-to-wall news coverage, the Pope is in America. Today I tuned in to the Pope's historic address to a joint session of Congress, eager to hear what he had to say to America's leaders on the subject of poverty. As a Jesuit priest, serving the poor was a part of Pope Francis' work long before he was Pope Francis. But it wasn't his own work he mentioned in his speech to Congress. Instead, he talked about the work of Dorothy Day, an American activist and founder of the Catholic Worker movement. 

Of course, I'd heard of Dorothy Day, but I have to be honest and say I didn't know much about her work. I spent a good part of today studying up.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

"I need to find a decomposer."

Bryce Gidley is learning about ecological communities. It just so happens he’s surrounded, immersed really, in long hallway full of ecological communities on display. He’s on the third floor of the Grand Rapids Public Museum, standing in front of a wetlands display, about 50 steps away from his new classroom.

flickr user Amanda Mar

Brookings just released a new analysis that presents our most detailed information yet on the student loan crisis. 

Researchers were able to look at information in the National Student Loan Data System, compiling results from a sample of four million borrowers. 

We already know that student debt has exploded in recent years, and now totals more than $1 trillion nationwide. What the new analysis shows is who is behind that debt. And it turns out, the huge growth in student debt hasn't been driven by your average 18-year-old university student. It's been driven by what the report calls "non-traditional borrowers."

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By now you've seen the images. Millions of refugees fleeing war zones in Syria and Iraq, trying desperately to reach a new life anywhere else. And the photo yesterday of a small boy, lying limp on a beach, drowned while trying to escape with his family. 

This boy's family, NPR reported, had applied to legally immigrate to Canada. 

"They had applied for legal migration to Canada because the father's sister was living in Canada," said Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch. "And they were denied. So their only option to join their relatives in Canada was to put their lives in the hands of the smugglers."

Canadian immigration officials, meanwhile, deny they ever received an application for asylum. They only received an application for the boys' uncle, and it was sent back. 

But local Canadian MP Fin Donnelly told the CBC he personally delivered an asylum request for the boy and his family to the immigration minister:

"It was terrible and obviously action was needed," he said. "That's why I agreed to do what I could, including personally talking to the minister about her case."

Donnelly said his office pushed as hard as his staff could to learn more, but received no response. The result is "utter frustration and devastation," he said.

Many have wondered how this death, and so many others, can be allowed to happen, when the need for help is so obvious. But it's not exactly surprising to find such bureaucracy and confusion behind an immigrant's application for asylum. Immigration law, in many countries, was created specifically to keep out war refugees. 

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Imagine for a moment you’re a high school student. You’ve spent the last several months doing everything you can to raise money for the biggest trip of your life. You’re going to France.

But also: You’ve never been on a long-distance flight.

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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.


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. 


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."