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

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. 

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.

LBJ Library photo by Frank Wolfe

The federal government has a long history of involvement in the nation's schools, particularly in the past half century, after President Lyndon Johnson first signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act into law. I wrote of that history earlier this year. At the time, I mentioned many education leaders were optimistic that the latest update to the law would soon pass.

Well, soon has arrived.

The new Every Student Succeeds Act was approved by the U.S House last week. The Senate takes it up starting tomorrow. Politico says the bill has plenty of support on both sides of the aisle, and President Obama is expected to sign it if it reaches his desk. 

So, what's in the new law? Well, a lot. 

stockmonkeys.com

Pacific Standard magazine published a piece online yesterday tracing the history of OxyContin, and the rise of opiate addiction in the United States. We've reported here that opiate abuse has killed more than 3,000 people in Michigan alone since 2005. A growing number of those deaths can be attributed to heroin overdoses. Heroin is one kind of opiate. But it's worth remembering how this epidemic started. It started with prescription drug companies chasing profits. 

leeroy09481 / flickr

Michigan is beginning to reach a state of normalcy after the worst economic shock in a generation. Last week, the state announced the unemployment rate held steady at 5%, which matches the national average. Which is to say, Michigan is no longer a worse-than-average place for people trying to find work. 

And that's good news, because a new economic paper spells out just how bad a job loss can be not just for the adults going through it, but for their kids too. 

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