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
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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Families & Community
3:40 pm
Tue September 30, 2014

Not working and not in school: What's next for Michigan's "disconnected youth?"

Use whatever color phone you have to call us Thursday, Oct. 2, at 3:00 p.m. Share your insight on what can be done for young people falling out of the mainstream of work or school. The number is 877-255-2762.
Credit kerri / flickr

More than 200,000 young people around the state can't be found in institutions we usually expect them to be in, namely either work or school. Social workers in particular call these young people,"disconnected youth."

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Families & Community
7:35 am
Fri September 26, 2014

ICYMI: Take care of your lead paint now; Michigan child care is a mess; lowering the bar for boys

Credit Dustin Dwyer

We're coming up on October and you'll be forgiven if not only autumn, but State of Opportunity content, has been flying past you.

That's what we're here for. 

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7:28 am
Fri September 19, 2014

Infowire: There is lots of red tape around prison visits. Here's how to untangle it.

Credit Free Press / flickr

The goal of Infowire is to deliver information that’s hard to come by to the people who could use it most. In this case, it's families of prisoners.

There’s a long list of serious issues in prison that people would not stand for if they were happening somewhere else. In this context, visits might not seem like the most important thing, but they are crucial.

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Families & Community
11:58 am
Mon September 15, 2014

Michigan gets an "F" in consumer debt protection

Credit National Consumer Law Center

Michigan law allows up to 25 percent of a workers paycheck to be garnished for credit card debt. It's one of 20 states that do not protect wages above the federal minimum of 75 percent of take-home pay once a person has judgment for non-payment of debt against them.

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