State of Opportunity

Wednesday during Morning Edition and All Things Considered

State of Opportunity is a special project produced by Michigan Radio with major financial support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The project features documentary reports, first-person storytelling, youth journalists, an online portal, and Michigan Radio’s Public Insight Network.

The goal is to expose the barriers children of low income families in Michigan face in achieving success.

flickr/clappstar

Robin DiAngelo was right out of college when she started thinking about it. She'd landed a job leading workshops on racism. And she met a man who became very angry, and pounded on a table. He said white people are the target of discrimination, white people can’t even find jobs anymore.

DiAngelo looked around the office and she saw nothing but white people, all of them with jobs.   

"It was unnerving," she says now. "It was like, 'This is not rooted in any racial reality that is happening, in this room, in this workplace, or in this man’s life.' And yet, these feelings are real. His rage is real. How do we do that?"

courtesy of The Diatribe

"Can you read right now at least please?"

Fable is harassing one of his students.

"Can you at least read in front of us?" he asks.

The student, Jocelyn, already said she doesn’t want to read her poem. She hardly ever speaks at all in this class.

But Fable, whose given name is Marcel Price, will not let up.

"I won't ask you for anything ever again," he says earnestly.

Fable is one of the teachers of this class, one out of four members of a poetry collective known as The Diatribe. The other poets are Rachel Gleason, G Foster II and Shawn Moore. They all pile on Jocelyn, the only student here today who hasn’t yet read a poem out loud.

The four poets plead, each in turn.

"Please."

"Please."

"Please." 

"Please."

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. 

Jennifer Deming / photoswithflair.com

It’s hard to remember now. Naton Brown isn’t sure what year it was. But she was eight years old.

"Yeah, I don’t remember," she tells me. "I just know that I kept on telling my mom I had headaches, and we went to the hospital, but then the doctor said it’s just because they thought I was dehydrated or something."

She wasn’t dehydrated. The headaches kept coming. One day at school, Brown fell down the stairs. They took her to the Emergency Room.

Her mother, Delores Lilly, says that’s when they found the tumor.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Temperatures are expected to dip below zero again tomorrow morning in parts of lower Michigan.

It’s been a long winter for all of us. But for those struggling to cover their heating bill, the frigid weather poses a much bigger risk.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

It’s a frigid Thursday morning in Jonesville, a small town southwest of Jackson. Bob Drake is trying his best not to make a mistake.

"It has to be exact from what you put on your taxes," Drake explains. 

Drake is a counselor at Jonesville High School. He’s helping a parent, Joy Sutton, fill out her son’s FAFSA.

"Yeah, it’s kind of finicky," Drake continues.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Here is a fact you might not know: In the decade between 2003 to 2013, no other state cut its spending on college scholarships as much as Michigan. Only six states had cuts at all. But Michigan cut the most. And it wasn’t even close.

The state-by-state comparison comes from a little-noticed annual report released by the National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs.

But the reason behind Michigan’s cut is well-known. 

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

This is a story about elementary school students, but it's not about the latest standardized test scores or teacher evaluations. 

Oh no, dear reader, this is a story about zombie hamsters and stars named Twinkle, and lions and tigers and cherillas (that's a mix between a cheetah and a gorilla, in case you didn't know), oh my!

In short, this is a story about pure imagination.  

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Chris Reynolds will never forget his first day on campus at the University of Michigan. He and his dad had gotten up super early to drive the nine hours from Sellersville, Pennsylvania to Ann Arbor.

"My father literally just dropped me off and then left," says Reynolds. His dad couldn’t afford a hotel, so they took about an hour to unpack the car, said their goodbyes, and his dad drove off.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

 

Mark Jackson settles into his chair, and takes a sip of coffee. He’s been in interviews all morning, meeting with high school students and parents interested in enrolling at Wayne State University through the APEX program, which Jackson oversees.

Jackson tells me he’s worked in college academic advising for 35 “some-odd” years, at six different institutions.

And he loves the work.

“You know, we’re helping change the world here,” he says. “People think I say that tongue-in-cheek. No, I’ve seen it happen.”

 Jackson begins to tell me a story of a student he met in Chicago years ago.

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