Sarah Alvarez

Public Insight Journalist

Sarah is a reporter and producer for the State of Opportunity Project.

Sarah's job is to get readers, listeners and communities participating in reporting. She's also the founder of State of Opportunity's Infowire project. 

Before her work at Michigan Radio, Sarah was a civil rights lawyer in New York and a consultant to social justice organizations in California. She graduated from the University of Michigan, Columbia Law School and the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.

She has a wonderful husband and three wonderful, busy kids and no time for anything else.

Ways To Connect

Brian Paris / flickr

When I was in eighth grade my social studies teacher explained to my class the difference between Democrats and Republicans.

This lesson in American politics is my only specific memory of anything I "learned" in any class that year. For example, I'm sure I learned things in honors biology. But in my memory I see nothing except  for a kid doing push-ups in front of the class because he swore. 

Kevin Dooley / flickr

Michigan has been scolding  "you're going to pay for that!" to young offenders across the state for close to two decades. 

This punishment comes in forms traditional to criminal justice: juvenile detention, jail for those 17 and older, probation, parole. Increasingly though, it also means that young offenders must literally find the money to pay a host of costs to courts and sheriff's departments across the state. 

Caden Crawford / flickr

Michigan Radio social media guru Kimberly Springer sent me a write-up about a new data system being sold to school systems as a way to identify potential drop-outs. I was interested. She was suspicious. 

Michelle / flickr

Infowire fills the information gap and meets the news needs of families struggling to make ends meet. Get all Infowire alerts by texting INFOWIRE to 734-954-4539 or email infowire@michiganradio.org

"Everybody who goes to alternative gets the label," says Zachary. "Automatically."

The label, he explains, is that of "the bad kids in town." Zachary is 16 and a student at the alternative high school in Stockbridge. He says everyone in his small town just grows up thinking "alternative kids" are somehow more trouble than their traditional school counterparts. 

free parking / flickr

 Late last summer I came up almost empty while trying to find out more about how racial differences between students and teachers affect student achievement

In Michigan  about 97% of teachers are white, while more than a quarter of all students are not. We need to understand whether this matters for student achievement, and how it plays out in a classroom more generally.

Renato Genoza
flickr

Michigan is on yet another list of dubious distinction. This time, the state has some of the highest rates of school suspensions in the country.  

A recently released report by UCLA's Center for Civil Rights Remedies looks at state and even district-level data to see where kids are most likely to get suspended. It also takes a look at which kids are suspended most often. Michigan doesn't suspend the most kids overall (that's Florida's achievement), but the state does have the fourth-largest gap in the nation between the number of black kids suspended and the number of white kids disciplined in the same way. 

Michigan districts also have among the highest rates of suspension in the entire country.

Steve Rhodes / flickr

Michigan has been under a federal court order to improve its foster care system for years. The state wants the monitoring to stop, but there's no guarantee that's going to happen soon. 

Being the focus of federal oversight is probably a pain. There are a ton of reporting requirements, it costs money, and the state gets ordered around a lot. 

David Trawin

The city of Ferguson, Mo., and another nearby town, Jennings, Mo., are the target of a new civil rights lawsuit aimed at what has been called modern day "debtors prison."

The lawsuit alleges citizens in Ferguson are routinely jailed because they can't pay fines associated with a wide range of minor infractions like unpaid parking tickets.  

After a weekend profile in the Detroit Free Press, many of us are now familiar with the story of James Robertson. Because of income constraints and nonsensical public transportation policy, Robertson has walked about 21 miles every weekday for the past 10 years to get from his home in Detroit to his work in the suburbs. 

Colin Duft/KOMU News / flickr

Tomorrow you can hear Dustin Dwyer's "College Material," a new documentary about first generation college students. The challenges that come when you're the first in your family to go to college are considerable, but so are the victories.

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