Jennifer Guerra


Jennifer is a reporter for Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and was one of the lead reporters on the award-winning education series Rebuilding Detroit Schools. Prior to working at Michigan Radio, Jennifer lived in New York where she was a producer at WFUV, an NPR station in the Bronx.

Her stories and documentaries have won numerous regional and national awards, and her work has aired on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Marketplace and Studio 360.

Jennifer graduated from the University of Michigan and received her M.A. in broadcast journalism from Fordham University. When she's not on the radio, she and her husband are making up lyrics to songs and singing them to their adorable baby girl.  


3:31 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

Pay now or pay later? The State of Opportunity story

Credit user DarkGuru / creative commons

Pay now or pay later? I feel like that could be the unofficial tag line for our State of Opportunity project.  

The "pay now or pay later" question comes up time and again when we talk about programs aimed at helping kids climb out of poverty. For example: Do we spend the money up front for high-quality preschool for low-income kids, or do we wait until they're falling behind to try and step in to help? Do we offer preventive medical care for low-income kids, or do we wait to treat them until they've developed asthma or heart disease later in life?  

Read more
4:05 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

U.S. Census data show child poverty rate is on the decline

Lead in text: 
New U.S. Census Bureau data show a decline in childhood poverty rates for the first time in 10 years. That's big news. But as Emily Badger points out in her Washington Post article, that's about the only good news coming out of the most recent poverty data gleaned from the Bureau's 2013 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement.
The Census Bureau released new poverty and income data on Tuesday morning, drawing on results from the 2013 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplements. The data is used to calculate the official poverty rate in the U.S., as well as to track how changes in the economy - such as in the employment prospects of workers - impact the incomes of American households, and the differences between them.
Families & Community
12:22 pm
Tue September 9, 2014

Did you experience foster care in Michigan? We want to hear from you.

Credit user Peter Lindberg / flickr

There are more than 13,000 youth in foster care in Michigan at any given time. There's no way we could possibly interview anywhere close to that number, but if we could, we would no doubt hear some heartwarming stories about being in care, some horror stories, and everything in between. 

Read more
Families & Community
11:13 am
Fri September 5, 2014

Friday news roundup: Camden renewal, suburban poverty, and elite colleges

Credit user photosteve101 / flickr

If you're like me, you probably don't have a lot of spare time. So in an effort to make things easier for you, here's a roundup of some articles from the week that our State of Opportunity team found interesting. Happy reading!

How one poor inner city managed to turn things around

I've been thinking about this story from the New York Times all week. It's a story about hope and renewal. Just about everybody – politicians, police, residents – had written off Camden, N.J. In the summer of 2012, there were 21 murders in Camden, the highest homicide rate in the city's history. Fast forward two years, and the homicide rate this summer was six. 

It has been 16 months since Camden took the unusual step of eliminating its police force and replacing it with a new one run by the county. Beleaguered by crime, budget cuts and bad morale, the old force had all but given up responding to some types of crimes.

The results are encouraging. Read the full article to see how Camden is fast becoming an example of how it's not impossible to turn things around.

Read more
12:37 pm
Fri August 29, 2014

What can parents do to help close the achievement gap?

Credit user Andrew Taylor / Flickr

Thousands of children across Michigan will start kindergarten next week, and the truth is many of them won't be prepared to learn. For many low-income children, this will be their first time in a classroom, so they're playing catch-up from the start. From there it's a short hop, skip and jump to a full-blown achievement gap between low-income kids and their more wealthy peers by the time they're in middle school.

Read more
Families & Community
1:30 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

Former foster care youth says system "makes you feel disposable"

Credit user Meggy / flickr

"It kind of makes you feel disposable, and that’s not a good feeling at all." 

That's how 22-year-old Jerry Caster describes his time in Michigan's foster care system. Caster bounced around from foster home to foster home starting when he was just 5 years old. He eventually "aged out" of the system when he was 19, and since then he's been alternately homeless or in jail. He wouldn't share with me why he was taken from his parents at the tender age of 5, except to say he suffered some serious trauma and as a result lives with mental illness. 

Read more
Families & Community
3:10 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

What is life like for Michigan's rural poor families?

Lake County has an abundance of natural beauty but few job opportunities
Credit Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

What's life like for Michigan's rural poor? The folks over at Bridge Magazine have been looking into that question and the answer is far from rosy. We're talking incredibly high rates of child homelessness, poor health outcomes, and few employment opportunities.

The Bridge series starts with a profile of Lake County, arguably the poorest county in Michigan. 

Read more
5:15 pm
Tue August 5, 2014

New Yorker report shows widespread cheating by educators on standardized tests

Credit user jdurham / morgueFILE

It's summer, but I'm going to talk about school for a minute here. This recent New Yorker article about standardized tests kind of blew my mind. In it, reporter Rachel Aviv profiles an urban middle school in Atlanta where teachers willfully cheat on the state standardized test; not only did a few of the teachers sneak a peak at the test before they were allowed to, the school's principal encouraged the teachers to correct the students' answers, too. 

Read more
11:46 am
Fri August 1, 2014

Doc McStuffins, a black cartoon character, has major crossover appeal

Lead in text: 
We've covered a lot of heavy stuff this week on the blog, so I figured today we could use a little levity. Doc McStuffins to the rescue! Doc is a 6-year old African American cartoon character who pretends to be a doctor to her stuffed animals and dolls. (The young girl's mom is a doctor, her dad stays at home.) In an age where princesses dominate the cartoon landscape, it's good to see a character who brings more than just a pretty dress to the party. Bonus points for being nonwhite. In the New York Times article, University of Chicago researcher Margaret Beale Spencer says children "are getting ideas about who they are from these objects. There are messages about one’s confidence, one’s sense of self in terms of what I look like and being powerful.” Good work, Doc.
Jade Goss, age 2, looks as if she just stepped out of the wildly popular " Doc McStuffins " cartoon. "She has the Doc McStuffins sheets. She has the Doc McStuffins doll. She has the Doc McStuffins purse. She has Doc McStuffins clothes," said Jade's mother, Melissa Woods, of Lynwood, Calif.
7:00 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Detroit kids go to camp to do things they can't do in the city

Detroit students get to practice archery at Camp Burt Shurly.
Credit Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

This week on State of Opportunity, we’re going to summer camp!

I spent this past Monday with about 100 elementary school students at Camp Burt Shurly, a 250-acre campground near Chelsea. The week-long, overnight camp is run by the Detroit Public School district. Each Sunday a new set of campers arrives by bus. There's tons to do here – everything from boating and swimming to arts and crafts, nature hikes and archery. And because the camp is run by a school district, the campers have to take math and English classes, too, to help combat the "summer slide" many kids face.

Camp is paid for with Title 1 funds, so it's free for DPS students, many of whom might not be able to afford camp otherwise. 

Read more