Jennifer Guerra

Reporter/Producer

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.  

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Education
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.

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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. 

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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. 

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Education
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. 

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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.
Education
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. 

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Opinion
9:37 am
Thu July 17, 2014

Some thoughts on race and speech from Michigan Radio's Jennifer White

We've recently dedicated a fair amount of time on State of Opportunity talking about voices and bias and code switching, so I thought it'd be cool to check in with Jenn White about what it's like to be one of the few minority voices on public radio. Below are a couple excerpts from our chat.

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Education
7:00 am
Wed July 16, 2014

Teaching students how to switch between Black English and Standard English can help them get ahead

Credit user: frankjuarez / flickr

Last week we did a story about whether people judge others based on how they speak. (Spoiler alert: Yep, they do.) One African-American high school student we spoke to said he hated how often teachers corrected him when he spoke. "Every time you try to say something they gotta correct every line you say. It's like ... I don't want to talk to you now."

University of Michigan education professor Holly Craig says that type of "correctional" teaching style is a sure-fire way to turn African American students off from education, and the results play out time and again in standardized test scores for African-American students. 

Across the country, black students consistently lag behind their white peers on standardized tests. Experts have been trying to come up with ways to shrink the achievement gap for decades, but it’s still there. Craig and a team of researchers thinks teaching kids how to code switch at an early age can go a long way reducing the gap. 

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Education
7:00 am
Wed July 9, 2014

Do we judge people on the way they speak?

Credit user dbphotography / flickr

It’s not hard to find an example of people being judged because of the way they speak.

Take the George Zimmerman trial. The primary witness for the prosecution was a young African American woman named Rachel Jeantel. She was Trayvon Martin’s friend and was on the phone with him the day he died. You can listen to some of her testimony here.

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Families & Community
7:00 am
Wed July 2, 2014

When you live in poverty, a lot can get in the way of graduating

Keisha Johnson (left) graduated from a 15-week computer tech training program, something she's been aiming for since 2012.
Credit Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Let's face it, a lot of people take graduation for granted. It's just one of the many steps on the path to a career. But for some, it’s not that easy. I've been following one young mom for the last couple years as she tried – and failed – to complete a jobs training program. But as you're about to read, the young mom finally did it.

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