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. Before joining 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 (including Clarion, PRNDI and Edward R. Murrow 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 master's degree in broadcast journalism from Fordham University. When she's not on the radio, she and her husband are trying to keep up with their adorable and energetic toddler.

Ways to Connect

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Who gets to volunteer at your kids’ school? Maybe it’s a question you haven’t thought about much. But when we learned that the guy who shot and killed two Berrien County courthouse officers was also a regular volunteer at his daughter’s elementary school despite his sizable criminal record, well, we thought it was time to take a closer look.

Bill Hickey in his garden
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

When you’re in your house, what do you see when you look out your front window? Maybe a big maple tree, a mailbox, your neighbor’s house across the street and the house next to them.

Cindy Dorman wishes that's what she saw when she looked out her front window. But instead she sees a whole lot of blight. "Twenty-one abandoned houses" within a one-block radius of her house, to be exact.

 

Abdul El-Sayed (right) meets with Joseph Mutebi
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Detroit built its public health departments back in the 1800s, when cholera was rampant.

 

But in 2012 the city gutted that department and privatized it. Now, after its historic bankruptcy, public health is back under city management. But it’s a shell of a what it once was.

 

Tires litter the lawn in front of an abandoned house on Detroit's west side
Andrea Claire Maio / Apiary Projects

I went to a workshop last month called "Why in the D?," which was put on by students at Cody’s Academy of Public Leadership. The point of the day was not to talk about schools; it was to talk about something much closer to home: where they live and the outsize role their neighborhoods have on their lives. 

Josh Andrew teaches English at Cody's Medicine and Community Health in Detroit
Andrea Claire Maio / Apiary Projects

There’s now a financial rescue plan for Detroit public schools. But the district's problems go way beyond money: Test scores are among the worst in the nation; students are leaving; teachers are leaving.

 

Reginald Franklyn (r) interviews his princicpal at Cody Academy of Public Leadership.
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The Detroit public school district is in desperate need of a lifeline. It’s drowning in debt, and Lansing can’t agree on what a bailout should look like. Meanwhile, many teachers fled to other districts mid-year when they heard they might not get paid.

 

The teacher shortage has taken a toll on Cody Academy of Public Leadership, a high school on Detroit’s west side. It lost four teachers during the school year, and it can almost never find subs when it needs them.

Jalin, Valencia and Irmitha Pitchford in front of their new home in Wyandotte.
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

For a long time, parents were seen as the key factor to a child’s success, and longtime State of Opportunity listeners know there are a number of things parents can do to help their children get ahead. But even the most well-intentioned parent will tell you: It's hard to parent when you live in a neighborhood that's not safe.

 

Song of the Sea on the "big screen" at the Play House
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

It’s been decades since Mr. Rogers invited us to be his neighbor.

 

 

All were welcomed – rich, poor, black, white, immigrant. But today the reality is neighborhoods are much more segregated and homogenous. There are, of course, exceptions. As part of our year-long look at neighborhoods and their impacts, we'll be spending time in a diverse neighborhood on the border of Hamtramck and Detroit that's actively working to integrate.

 

 


Nick Azzaro / Ypsilanti Community Schools

This story is part of the NPR reporting project “School Money,” a nationwide collaboration between NPR’s Ed Team and 20 member station reporters exploring how states pay for their public schools and why many are failing to meet the needs of their most vulnerable students.

This isn’t exactly breaking news, but it’s worth repeating: we have no idea – as a state – how much it costs to adequately educate a child in Michigan. Most states have done so-called “adequacy studies,” but Michigan hasn’t. Until now. We’ve got a new school funding study underway. But before we get to the nitty gritty details about what goes into the study, let's ask some students how much they think it costs to educate one child per year in Michigan. 

user Phil Roeder / flickr

If you've been following State of Opportunity for a while, you've probably heard us say this a few times now: our state constitution legally promises all Michigan kids  a "free" education, but it says nothing about that education being "adequate" or "equitable."

Here's the exact language:

Sec. 2. The Legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law. Every school district shall provide for the education of its pupils without discrimination as to religion, creed, race, color or national origin.

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