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.  

Ways To Connect

user Andrew Blight / flickr

Hi there! This is going to be a pretty quick blog post, since I'm knee-deep in documentary tape, but I wanted to share with you a few stories that have resonated with me lately. 

The first is a radio story from This American Life. It's called Three Miles and it's about an exchange program between two high schools: a public school in "the country's poorest congressional district" in the Bronx, and a private school three miles away that costs $43,000 a year to attend.

user Frank Juarez / Flikr

I've been spending a lot of time at Cody's Medicine and Community Health Academy in Detroit for our next State of Opportunity documentary, and I thought I'd use today's blog post to highlight a few observations. But before I do, there are a few things you need to know about Cody: 

The school bus drivers in Hartsville, South Carolina used to do two things: pick up kids and drop them off. But now they do a whole lot more and are an integral part of the school community. In this New York Times piece, we learn about how this S.C. district utilizes school bus drivers to help identify students at risk. "As the literal transition guides between home and school life — and the first and last adults with whom children interact before and after school each day — bus drivers can help recognize how children are faring emotionally, respond to behavior problems in thoughtful ways and set a welcoming tone for the day."

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

We've talked a lot about what it's like to be a first generation student at the University of Michigan, and what it's like to be a first generation student at Grand Valley State University. Now let's take a look at what it's like to be one at Michigan State University.

This is a story from last year, but it's one that has particular relevance for me now as I delve into stories about first generation college students. In this article, Paul Tough talks about what the University of Texas at Austin is doing to retain first generation, low-income students. It's a long article, but I urge you to read the whole thing. Especially the part about the videos these students have to watch when they get to campus; the videos convey "a simple message about belonging," but they make a huge impact on the students' success.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

This is a story about elementary school students, but it's not about the latest standardized test scores or teacher evaluations. 

Oh no, dear reader, this is a story about zombie hamsters and stars named Twinkle, and lions and tigers and cherillas (that's a mix between a cheetah and a gorilla, in case you didn't know), oh my!

In short, this is a story about pure imagination.  

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Chris Reynolds will never forget his first day on campus at the University of Michigan. He and his dad had gotten up super early to drive the nine hours from Sellersville, Pennsylvania to Ann Arbor.

"My father literally just dropped me off and then left," says Reynolds. His dad couldn’t afford a hotel, so they took about an hour to unpack the car, said their goodbyes, and his dad drove off.

Photo courtesy of Eddie Hejka

There are a few talks nearly all parents have with their kids. There’s the "birds and the bees" talk, and the "don't do drugs" talk. Some parents also find themselves needing to have the race talk.

We reached out to two mixed race families to get their take on the race talk, and hear some of the parenting challenges that brings. 

Just the 17 of us

There is ample evidence that talking to your children early and often can truly make a difference in their future success. The challenge lies is getting all parents to do it - specifically low-income parents whose children historically start kindergarten with far fewer words than their wealthier counterparts. This article highlights a new program in Rhode Island called Providence Talks, "the most ingenious of several new programs across the country that encourage low-income parents to talk more frequently with their kids."

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Teaching is a political act. That's what Grand Valley State University professor Amy Masko believes. 

"What we choose to talk about in schools and what we choose to avoid or not talk about sends a message about power," says Masko, an associate professor of English education who specializes in race, poverty and schooling.

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