WUOMFM

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

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Nearly every day, a silver Subaru makes its way through the tiny towns and white pine woods of Wexford County, in northern Michigan. Behind the wheel is Jeannie Schnitker, a nurse with the state’s Maternal and Infant Health Program. Last week, I tagged along for a ride.

flickr.com/caelestis

It was November, and the first snowfall had already arrived, reminding everyone of another long, cold winter yet to come. The passengers boarded the train at Union Depot in Detroit, 432 of them in all, bound for Mexico. They had arrived in Michigan in better times, back when the state was so desperate for workers, sugar beet farmers had sent recruiters driving down to Texas to offer jobs to any Mexican immigrants willing to make the trip north. Working the sugar beet farms beat picking cotton, and there was less racial tension up north. Thousands of Mexicans took the offer. Once they arrived in Michigan, many discovered there were many more opportunities beyond the sugar beet farms. So they headed to Detroit, to be a part of a booming new industry, making automobiles for Henry Ford. Historian Zaragosa Vargas recounts their stories in his book Proletarians of the North : Mexican Industrial Workers in Detroit and the Midwest, 1917 – 1933 . Vargas writes that 15,000 Mexican immigrants were living in Detroit and working in its factories by 1929. Then the stock market crashed.

woman in cap and gown
Schlüsselbein2007 / Flickr CC / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

It was February 2006, almost exactly 10 years ago, when then-governor Jennifer Granholm used her weekly radio address to urge state lawmakers to pass a new set of rigorous high school curriculum requirements. "We have to increase the skill level of our students," Granholm said. "We have to increase our efforts to give our children, who are our future workforce, the math and science education they need to succeed in the 21 st century." The Legislature acted, and the next school year, the Michigan Merit Curriculum went into effect. Now, nearly 10 years later, we may finally have an answer on whether it worked.

courtesy Vanessa Gutierrez

Vanessa Gutierrez doesn't remember Mexico. It's there in her baby pictures, in family albums. She's seen what it looks like, and she knows she was born there, but she doesn't remember it. Her parents brought her to the U.S. when she was three. They worked hard, she says, they paid their taxes and went to church and gave her a great childhood. Then Gutierrez got to high school, and started thinking about her future. Gutierrez says it was right around the time her friends started signing up for driver’s ed.

"And I remember talking to my parents about it," she says. "And number one was the cost. They couldn’t afford it, for me to take that course. And, number two, when I started asking other questions, such as 'can I enroll in college?' that’s when I started to find out those answers."

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

It’s 8:45 on a Saturday morning, and I’m following along with one of the co-founders of Reach Out to Youth, a long-running program that brings elementary age kids into medical school for a day. The idea behind Reach out to Youth is that many kids are interested in getting into the medical field, but very few kids get to go inside a medical school. "If you want to learn a language, you go to a country," Dr. Carolyn King says. "If you want to learn a career, you go to the place where the careers are."

flickr.com/nichd

Colin Parks gets an email alert almost every time a baby in Michigan dies in their sleep.

Parks is head of Michigan’s Child Protective Services, and he tells me he gets far too many of these emails; they arrive almost every other day. “In Michigan,” he says, “we lose about 140 to 150 infants a year, and that’s a number that’s been pretty static over time.” It’s been static, even though Parks, and everyone else who works on infant safety has been desperately trying to get the message out. The message is for all babies to sleep alone, on their back and in an empty crib. To simplify, they use a slogan - ABC - alone, back, crib.

Photo courtesy of George Bayard

February is a busy time for George Bayard . He’s a collector and a keeper of black history, and this is the one month he’s in high demand in Grand Rapids. I met him this past weekend in a large, noisy hallway during an ethnic festival at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. He stood in front of a table full of his own collected pieces of black history. Some pieces he collected during the 25 years he ran his own art gallery in Grand Rapids. Some were just left for him. “I’d come in some days,” he says, “and there’d be something just sitting on a step.”

flickr.com/swaity / Licenced under Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Michelle Gach grabs a couple slices of pizza before we get started. She has a story to tell, and it turns out to be a long one, covering the past 14 years of her life, with more tragic turns than most people see in an entire lifetime. But that comes later. For now, we’re sitting in a room together: Michelle, two of her daughters, and two friendly pit bulls. The room is mostly bare, exposed plywood on the floor, blue strips of painter’s tape along the baseboard, new doors still leaning against the wall. A project waiting to be finished. While Michelle Gach finishes her pizza, her daughter Felicity begins to tell me the story of what happened on a Saturday in August 2014.

flickr/bradadozier

The Centers for Disease Control released new statistics Friday on drug overdose deaths in the U.S. The numbers may not be surprising to anyone who's followed our reporting , but they are still shocking. According to the CDC, 1,762 people died from drug overdoses in Michigan alone in 2014. And that's a 13.2% increase over 2013.

Drug overdose deaths in the U.S. were already at epidemic levels, according to the CDC. These new statistics show the problem got even worse in 2014, not...

flickr/hernanpc

This is the story of a new movement in American education; a story about a new way of thinking about how some students learn, and how to get them to love school. And it is a story about one person in this movement who’s trying to make a difference. This story starts in Rochester, New York, in the 1980s, where a kid named Bettina Love was growing up. She grew up knowing her town had been home to some of the world’s greatest companies: Xerox, Kodak, Bausch and Lomb. Then the economy changed.

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