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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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.

flickr.com/dcjohn

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. 

flickr.com/jvalasimages

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."

Prison Policy Institute, States of Incarceration: A Global Context / Prison Policy Institute

Badly. 

I came across this chart from the Prison Policy Initiative, which ranks all the states' incarceration rates and compares them to other countries throughout the world. None of the states fare particularly well. Michigan's rate is higher than the national average, and it's higher than every other country in the world (though not nearly as bad as some other states, such as Louisiana). 

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

There is an epidemic of drug use in Michigan, and in the rest of the country, involving a class of drugs called opiates – think Vicodin, Oxycontin or heroin.

In Michigan, at least 3,000 people have died  from these drugs since 2005. But even that number doesn’t tell the whole story. The actual number of deaths is likely much higher.

How much higher? We don't actually know. 

By Leffler, Warren K., photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Last weekend, This American Life ran a powerful, heart-wrenching story of how segregation continues to haunt the American education system. If you haven't yet heard it, you should definitely make some time to listen. TAL billed it as the first of two stories they have on the topic. So, while I was sitting around waiting for the second part to come out, I decided to dive a little deeper into some of the research behind last week's story. 

John Guilfoil Public Relations LLC/ JGPR.Net

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.

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