WUOMFM

Jennifer Guerra

Reporter/Producer

Jennifer is a reporter with Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and worked as a producer for WFUV 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 master's in broadcast journalism from Fordham University in New York. When not working on a story, you can find Jen practicing her tap steps and hanging out with her husband and their two hilarious kids.

Ways to Connect

students next to lockers in a line
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The fates of neighborhoods and schools are intimately intertwined. That's especially true in high-poverty areas like Detroit. 

You can see those fates playing out in tandem across the city in part one and two of this documentary. 

So how do we make sense of what is happening, not just in Detroit, but in cities all across the country?

And why, despite wave after wave of reforms, do America’s inner city schools continue to struggle?

Nadia at the book club at the Brightmoor Artisans Community building
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

In part one of our State of Opportunity documentary, We Live Here, we spent time in Littlefield — a Detroit neighborhood right on the edge. It’s trying for a comeback, but so much depends upon whether the elementary school there stays open. 

Now let’s visit a neighborhood that’s past that point. A place where most of the DPS schools are long gone - abandoned, torn down or replaced by charters.

Noble Elementary-Middle School
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

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Over the last 15 years, cities across the country have faced wave after wave of school closures. Places like Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia closed down dozens of buildings at a time. 

But the district that closed the most schools during that time was Detroit Public Schools

Musicians team up with at-risk youth in songwriting workshop
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The girls who live on the Vista Maria campus in Dearborn Heights have all experienced some kind of serious abuse or neglect. Some are the victims of human trafficking, all are in the foster care system. They come to Vista Maria to work through the trauma and heal.

user Pictures of Money / creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

Figuring out all the different pots of money that go into paying for special education is complicated, but you know what’s even more complicated? Figuring out how much special education in Michigan actually costs. And if we don't know that, we don't know whether we're spending too much or too little on special ed. 

It’s so complicated even the people who specialize in school finance can’t figure it out.

A special education classroom in Holt
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The idea for today’s State of Opportunity story comes from you. After we ran a piece about how special ed placements vary from district to district, several of you got in touch and asked: How do schools pay for special ed?

I went to Elliott Elementary in Holt to get some answers.

The first thing you notice about the special ed room at Elliott Elementary is the student teacher ratio: four students, four adults.

Jozef Jason, 7, reads to his barber
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Most kids will head back to school this week ready to learn. But some will have to spend a good chunk of time re-learning things they forgot over the summer. The dreaded “summer slide” has been linked to persistent achievement gaps between kids from lower-income families and their better-off peers.

Lisa Kocab with her son PJ, who has down syndrome
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

As kids head back to school, it’s worth remembering that all kids have the right to a free education. But as we've pointed out time and again, free doesn’t necessarily mean equal. Where you live can have a big impact on the quality of education you receive, especially if you have a child with special needs.

 

 

A young girl plucks out notes on the violin
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

No doubt you’ve heard by now about Pokemon Go!. It was all the rage this summer. But we did manage to find a group of kids who put down their smartphones and picked up something much more old school.

Seven weeks ago, Kennedy Craig had never held a violin in her hands, let alone play one. But here she was, seven weeks later, plucking out "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" on a pint-sized violin. She likes the instrument so much she wants "to get one for Christmas!"

Baron Coleman is a Neighborhood Police Officer for the city of Detroit
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Trust between police and the black community has taken a major hit after the spate of recent police shootings of black men around the country. So this week, we're taking a look at how some Michigan cities are trying to rebuild that trust, starting at the neighborhood level.

 

 

 

I'm the police, and I'm here to help...and BBQ

 

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