Sarah Alvarez

Public Insight Journalist

Sarah is the Public Insight Journalist 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.


5:18 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

Michigan's juvenile justice system – a 1700s approach?

Credit publik16 / flickr

In 1978, a group of teenagers in Wayne County beat, stabbed, and killed another young person named Dennis Rhodes in order to steal his bike. 

One of those young people, Jeffrey Dunbar, was tried and sentenced as an adult. Dunbar was sentenced to life without parole. 

This decision is only one year younger than I am. It seems utterly unremarkable in its treatment of a juvenile as an adult.

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Families & Community
9:30 am
Wed November 12, 2014

Michigan's foster care system has some successes, but still needs to improve.

Credit Patrick M / flickr

The Department of Human Services Office in rural Van Buren County is pretty indistinct. There's a waiting room with a toddler crying. Through double doors and down the hall there is a sea of cubicles. Rows and rows of them where case workers take calls. It’s a big operation, some would say a big bureaucracy that exists, at least in part, to do right by kids like Durwin.

He introduces himself like this, "I'm just a foster youth."

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Families & Community
2:31 pm
Mon November 3, 2014

After foster care, what's next for kids in Michigan?

Credit vicki watkins / flickr

We've recently spent a lot of time here at State of Opportunity focusing on foster care. If you missed Jennifer Guerra's documentary Finding Home, set aside some time to listen.

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Families & Community
12:06 am
Mon October 27, 2014

If you want to measure the effect of your early life on your health now, take this ACES test

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris is a national leader in the work to treat earl stress and trauma
Credit Nadine Burke Harris

State of Opportunity will air a documentary on foster care on Thursday, October 30th. In the lead up to Thursday we're publishing a series of articles that explore specific aspects of the foster care system or challenges kids within that system face.

America is in the middle of a collective, and scientifically supported, epiphany about just how much early childhood experiences matter to outcomes later in life.

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Families & Community
2:27 pm
Fri October 24, 2014

Michigan's foster care system getting better, but kids still suffer because of state's lapses

Credit David Machiavello / Flickr

State of Opportunity will air a documentary on foster care on Thursday, October 30th. In the lead up to Thursday, we're publishing a series of articles that explore specific aspects of the foster care system or challenges kids within that system face.

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Families & Community
10:43 am
Tue October 21, 2014

We want your ideas for State of Opportunity's Infowire!

Credit Garry Knight / flickr

Infowire stories are a little bit different from traditional news stories. The point of Infowire is to fill an information gap. That means a perfect Infowire story would start with a question. Where do you find X in Michigan? Why doesn't X service work the way it's supposed to? Why isn't anybody doing anything about X issue? I then dig into these questions and try to put together a story.

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7:40 am
Tue October 14, 2014

Infowire: Getting high-quality mental health care for kids in Michigan depends on where you live

Credit Internet Archive Book Images / flickr

Parents that have a kid with a serious mental illness are well acquainted with frustration. Annie Kitching is one of these parents. 

In addition to the challenges of parenting a mentally ill child, Kitching, who lives near Lansing, also ran into a lot of roadblocks trying to find mental health care that could make a difference for two of her kids. Kitching adopted these children, a brother and sister. Before their adoption they had been severely abused, and that abuse took a serious toll on their mental health.

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9:49 am
Tue October 7, 2014

New policies aim to make a difference for Michigan's kids.

Credit Greyloch / flickr

There have been a few recent developments that meet at the intersection of the Venn diagram made when State of Opportunity meets government affairs.

What matters is how likely these reforms are to make a difference for kids in Michigan. Here's some early stage analysis. 

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Families & Community
4:55 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

How to keep teenagers from becoming "disconnected" youth, a State of Opportunity special

If you missed the show, it's definitely worth your time. 

You can listen on an intimate but really informative conversation on young people heading toward or already on the fringes of society. They're not working, not in school and definitely not set up for a successful adulthood.

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Families & Community
9:53 pm
Wed October 1, 2014

Michigan business sees potential in teens others might dismiss

One of the manufacturing lines at Peckham Incorporated in Lansing.
Credit Sarah Alvarez / Michigan Radio

Upwards of 200,000 young people in Michigan aren't working and aren't in school. For many of them, getting off the fringe of society won't be easy. Peckham Industries in Lansing is one place that is more than willing to work with these teens. 

As a shift ends on one of their manufacturing lines, a few people are still assembling harnesses for protective vests the military has ordered from Peckham. Others at are sitting straight backed at souped up sewing machines with cords and cables everywhere. This manufacturing business is just one of 5 different businesses Peckham runs in a unique relationship with people like James. He’s a worker and and a client.

“I’m learning how to cooperate with other people," he says.  "It’s a nice work environment.”

James isn’t really working in manufacturing yet, he’s just 16 years old.

“I’m too young to make things," he jokes.  "I just do like the littlest things, like fold clothes and take stickers off of them.” Somebody needs to fold the clothes. At Peckham the people doing the simplest to the most complicated tasks all have barriers to employment.

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