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. Using a tool called the Public Insight Network she helps turn questions, tips, stories, and insight from the State of Opportunity community and beyond into content online and on the air. She also files legal and policy stories. She was formerly the Public Insight Journalist on the Changing Gears 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.


Families & Community
5:31 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

State of Opportunity special: Do we really have a plan for at-risk kids?

Jennifer White, Carl King and Zoe Clark prepare for a conversation about successful approaches to creating opportunity for at-risk youth.
Credit Michigan Radio

There's widespread recognition that education creates opportunity. But schools are often expected to provide much more than just education for kids struggling with poverty. So what are the effects of that expectation? Are kids getting watered-down educations and watered-down social services as schools struggle to do both? 

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Families & Community
11:17 am
Mon April 7, 2014

How many parents does a kid need? How about three?

Credit Lorianne DiSabato / flickr

Former State of Opportunity intern extraordinaire Gabrielle Emanuel recently did a story for NPR that resonates with events in Michigan. Emanuel takes a look at states that provide options for families with more than two parents involved in a child's upbringing.

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2:27 pm
Fri April 4, 2014

What should our next infowire story be?

Actually, we're already working on the next Infowire story. But, we're open to ideas for the story after that. 

As a refresher, the idea behind Infowire is to begin to fill gaps in the news for low-income families.

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3:16 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Not sure if breastfeeding will work for you? You're not alone.

A new mom gets help nursing for the first time. Most mothers decide whether to breastfeed long before the baby is born.
Credit J.A. Warren / flickr

Knowing the benefits of breastfeeding and being able to stick with it for months are two different things.

The Centers for Disease Control  says around 75% of new moms try breastfeeding at the beginning, but only 13% of Michigan moms are still breastfeeding without using formula six months after their babies are born.

What's going on here?

A story about mixed breastfeeding messages

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6:55 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Michigan's same-sex marriage case analysis – parenting edition

The plaintiffs in Michigan's same-sex marriage case with their children.
Credit Lester Graham

Update 9:06 p.m.

The appeals court ruled this evening the ban will continue to be in place while the case makes its way through the courts.  

Original post 6:40 p.m.

A decision is expected as soon as tomorrow on what exactly is happening with Michigan's same-sex marriage ban.

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Families & Community
10:45 am
Thu March 20, 2014

Documentary of life 'Paycheck to Paycheck' streaming free this week

Katrina Gilbert is the subject of a new HBO documentary.
Credit HBO films

Katrina Gilbert is working single mom of three kids. Her life in Tennessee  documented was for over a year by HBO films, in collaboration with the Shriver Center

The film is streaming free online until March 24.

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4:11 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

Introducing Infowire: State of Opportunity's newswire

Credit Rosenfeld Media / Fickr

We're in the light-filled sanctuary of Centenary Church in Macon, Georgia. It's a hot October afternoon. Our group of journalists sits in a semi-circle on worn chairs facing a screen for a Skype call with James Hamilton.   

Hamilton, an economist, is in his office at Stanford University. He's sharing with us the work he's done on "the information gap." For years, Hamilton has researched how the media delivers news and who receives it. What he's learned is that, when it comes to getting news relevant to their lives, lower-income people are left out. 

It's not that lower-income people aren't paying attention to the news. In fact, they consume media in similar ways and at similar rates to people who are financially better off. But, news organizations direct their efforts to a "target audience" of middle-income readers and listeners.

That means that whatever the target audience doesn't care about is ignored in the news cycle. This is especially the case for issues important to people in low-income communities.

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Families & Community
10:00 am
Thu March 13, 2014

Outtakes: Who's at stake if Michigan's child poverty rate stays at 1 in 4

State of Opportunity is closing in on its second anniversary. The project officially began in April 2011, with the first stories hitting the air in July of that year. 

Now we're about to cover issues faced by kids as they approach young adulthood. But first we're taking a look back at some of our early stories to figure out what we want to continue to explore and what we've missed. We want your ideas too; scroll down to the end of this post for details.

We've also put together some audio that paints a picture of what's at stake if childhood poverty around the state remains as pervasive as it is today, with one in four Michigan kids living in poverty. Here they are, the voices of the kids and families working to get ahead.

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10:47 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Three ways not to lose all your money this tax season

Credit Alashi / Getty Images

Number one: Don't get scammed!

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12:31 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

A fox a bear and an antelope tell you all you need to know about empathy

I've been planning to do a radio story on empathy for more than a year, but it's never really come together. Now I probably don't have to. This animation from the Royal Society of Arts narrated by Brene Brown breaks down the difference between empathy and sympathy so well, and why it matters.

The only thing this animation doesn't cover that I am curious about, is the connection between empathy and policies around poverty. I talked to researcher Elizabeth Segal, one of the few academics studying this, about the connection.

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