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.

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Cody High School is on Detroit’s west side, in a neighborhood that struggles with blight, drugs and gangs.

KNIGHT: Everybody wants to be out the neighborhood, everybody do. But more people still stuck here than ever.

So how do you get out? Well, first you have to graduate high school. For students who are on the brink, that’s where this guy comes in. His name is Jimmie Knight:

Sarah Alvarez / Michigan Radio

This is part of an Infowire series about choices for young people who want to be successful but aren’t seeing that path through college, or in some cases, even traditional high school education. 

mootje mootje / flickr

The advocacy group Children's Rights sued the state of Michigan over its foster care system more than eight years ago because of the number of kids who were left with abusive families, or harmed once they got into foster care.

Hogan / flickr

"Up by your bootstraps," that ubiquitous phrase that has come to function basically as shorthand for the American Dream, first came onto the scene in 1834.  

Linguist Anne Curzan says at that point, it was basically an insult. It described somebody delusional enough to think they could defy the laws of physics and pull themselves up in the air by the very things anchoring them to the ground. 

Hogan / flickr

If there is one phrase you hear ad nauseam as a reporter who covers poverty, it is definitely some variant of "pull yourself up by your bootstraps." 

Of course it's used as part of the origin story to explain how any number of families from humble beginnings now experience success several generations later. (If it was possible to search facebook comments on State of Opportunity stories by the keyword "bootstraps" the stress would surely cause my laptop to shake and smoke from its USB ports.) 

Michelle / flickr

I have seen more than enough data to convince me that in order to move up the economic ladder, you should go to college

That doesn't mean I'm completely satisfied by this data. Because I'm not.

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. 

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