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. 

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Families & Community
9:20 am
Wed October 29, 2014

How Daniel Lopez learned to stop fearing the worst, and started planning for the best

Mr. Lopez goes to Washington.
Credit Michelle Parolini / Park Journeys, Inc

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

We’ve all heard the saying. But for young people who come to the United States as immigrants, getting to know people can be a challenge.

Language barriers, cultural barriers, sometimes class barriers can prevent young people from meeting the people who can help them be successful in life.

Today’s story is about a young person trying to make those connections.

The story begins very early one recent Friday, as Daniel Lopez hears his alarm go off. 

He wakes up, zips ups his suitcase, feeds his fish, and heads for the airport for an important trip. 

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Justice
3:22 pm
Thu October 23, 2014

How we're failing to stop, or even see, modern slavery in Michigan

Credit flickr/the_justified_sinner

There were four children, brought to the U.S. under falsified records. They came to live with a man in Ypsilanti. He said he brought them to the U.S. to give them an education, and improve their lives. The children said the man beat them regularly. He beat them with whatever he could get his hands on: a broomstick, a toilet plunger, an ice scraper, even a phone charger. They were beaten and deprived of sleep whenever they failed to do their "chores."

The Detroit Free Press carried the story of how federal prosecutors tried to get the man put in prison on charges of "forced labor" – basically, modern slavery. And of how his conviction on that charge was overturned. Forcing a child to do "chores," and even beating them when they failed to do so, isn't enslavement, the federal appeals court decided. It's just plain child abuse. 

Today, the man, Jean-Claude Toviave, was charged with child abuse, this time in state court, rather than federal court. 

The four children may yet see justice served against the man who allegedly brought them to the U.S. to a life of torture and abuse. But the case highlights the flaws in a justice system still struggling to keep up with the heinous and often hidden crimes associated with human trafficking. 

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Families & Community
11:47 am
Thu October 9, 2014

Actually, here are 13 stories from us about people working to stop "black on black" crime

Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Yesterday, I reported a story about a community meeting. The purpose of this meeting was to help parents and children in Grand Rapids avoid potentially violent encounters with police. The meeting was organized by the Grand Rapids chapter of the NAACP, and most of the people who attended were black. The issue of police violence is relevant to the black community, in particular, because black people are more likely than other racial groups to be subjected to the use of force from police officers. Especially deadly force.

So, that's an issue, and it's one we think is worth covering. 

But several people who commented on the story online wanted to know why no one was paying attention to what they deemed a far greater threat to young black people: so called "black on black" crime. In one comment, this was deemed a "less publicized problem."

These comments struck me as odd, because I know we've done plenty of stories on that topic in the past, and I've been to plenty of community meetings meant to address community violence, including "black on black" crime. 

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Families & Community
6:00 am
Wed October 8, 2014

Teaching black kids about the police: "They have legal authority to kill you."

Attorney Stephen Drew gives "survival tips" for police encounters during an event hosted by the Grand Rapids chapter of the NAACP.
Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The gymnasium at the Baxter Community Center in Grand Rapids started filling up a little before six Monday night. Dinner was provided. Parents and kids loaded up Styrofoam plates, then sat down with their meals at the rows of tables. It was a full house.

As the meal finished, napkins folded on plates, a man in a dark grey suit took hold of the microphone and began his presentation.

In front of him were families. Parents. Children. Young children.

The man talked for a while. Eventually, he got to this:

"They have more power than you do," he said. "They have guns. They have legal authority to kill you."

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Education
6:00 am
Wed October 1, 2014

You want the cookie. How can you resist? One psychologist's strategy, and why it matters

Can you resist the temptation?
Credit flickr/ginnerobot

Today, we have a story about the time one of the most famous television characters in history re-enacted one of the most famous psychology experiments in history.

The character is Cookie Monster. And the experiment, well for Cookie Monster, it was called a game:

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Health
6:30 am
Wed September 24, 2014

Getting the word out about Get the Lead Out

Viv Jaunais works to remove any lead risks from a home in Grand Rapids.
Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Organizers of the Get the Lead Out program in Grand Rapids are trying right now to get the word out for people to apply for assistance with lead removal in their homes.

As we’ve reported before on State of Opportunity, lead is one of the most dangerous chemicals in the environment affecting young children.

In Grand Rapids, the funds for lead removal may soon dry up. And the push is on to fix as many homes as possible before that happens.

I walk up the driveway next to a yellow house on the southeast side of Grand Rapids. Next door, a dog barks. At the yellow house, a man stands on a ladder, cutting away some vinyl trim. His work area is marked off with an ominous stretch of red tape. The dog and I are on the other side of it.

"Am I allowed to come on this side?" I ask.

"No, you’re not," the man says.

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Education
3:10 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

One popular strategy to help boys succeed in school: Just expect less from them

A future underachiever?
Credit Dustin Dwyer

If you follow our work here on State of Opportunity, it will not be news to hear that girls currently outperform boys on most academic measures

A piece published a few days ago over at The Atlantic points out that this isn't just an American phenomenon; girls are doing better than boys in schools all around the world. This disparity has immense consequences for our education system, in part because, as I reported last year in our documentary "Be A Man," gender acts as a multiplying factor for other types of educational achievement gaps. The gaps we see between students based on family income and race are both much worse for males than females. If we want to tackle these achievement gaps, we can't ignore gender. 

So how can we help boys catch up to girls in school? One idea that seems to have a lot of traction lately is just to let boys get away with doing less. 
 

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Families & Community
6:00 am
Wed September 17, 2014

Many Michigan cities are reporting a drop in homicides so far this year. Can the trend last?

Credit flickr/diversey

The numbers are down 30% in Flint.

They were down 70% in Saginaw through July. Down 66% in Grand Rapids through June. Down 14% in Detroit, and on pace for the lowest annual total in decades.

The reports are preliminary, but homicides in many of Michigan’s cities are way down compared to last year.

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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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