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.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

If you graduated high school in June and college doesn’t start until fall, probably homework is the last thing on your mind during summer. But for some recent high school graduates, the summer before college is filled with homework, study groups and workshops.

That's how Chelsie Thompson's summer is shaping up. Thompson is 18 years old and she insists everyone (including reporters) call her "Phancie." She’s from Melvindale, a small, working-class city just outside Detroit, and she's spending seven weeks of her summer on the campus of the University of Michigan, taking three college courses for credit and learning her way around the university. 

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

We use the "gap" metaphor a lot. The opportunity gap. The discipline gap. The achievement gap. Well, now we've got another one to add to the list: the adventure gap, where minorities, especially those in inner cities, are much less likely than their white peers to experience the outdoors – especially state and national parks. 

Listen to The Hidden Epidemic full documentary

Jul 17, 2015
courtesy of Mary DeBoer.

The Hidden Epidemic is a State of Opportunity documentary on the opiate drug epidemic in Michigan.

It’s been a national epidemic, but Michigan has been especially hard hit. It’s an epidemic of drug addiction to opiates. While Michigan has been one of the worst places for the epidemic, it has not been a place on the forefront of finding solutions.

John Guilfoil Public Relations LLC/ JGPR.Net

This is the third part in our documentary, The Hidden Epidemic. You can hear the full documentary on the air today at 3 p.m. and 10 p.m., or catch up online. Part one is here. Part two is here.  

It’s been a decade. Maybe more. Thousands have died. Many more had their lives destroyed. It’s been a national epidemic, but Michigan has been especially hard hit.

It’s an epidemic of drug addiction to opiates.

While Michigan has been one of the worst places for the epidemic, it has not been a place on the forefront of finding solutions.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

It’s summer, so let's head outside!

This week and next week on State of Opportunity, we're going to explore the great outdoors. We'll start at the Hull's Trace unit of the River Raisin National Battlefield Park in Monroe. It sits right at the mouth of the Huron River and was a key site in the War of 1812.

Eugene Atkins was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for selling heroin that led to a young man's death.
courtesy of the Atkins family

 This is the second part in our documentary, The Hidden Epidemic. You can hear the full documentary on Michigan Radio on Thursday, July 16th at 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. Part one is here.

On October 27th, 1986, President Reagan signed a new law to fight drug use in America. Buried within that law were new penalties for those convicted of selling drugs. The premise behind these penalties was to get the most serious drug offenders off the streets, and send a message that dealing drugs in America is a crime that does not pay.

Eugene Atkins never got that message.

courtesy of Mary DeBoer.

This is the first part in our documentary, The Hidden Epidemic. You can hear the full documentary on Michigan Radio on Thursday, July 16th at 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. Or, subscribe to the State of Opportunity podcast on iTunes to hear each part as it’s released.

Mary DeBoer still remembers how it felt in the winter of 2004.

“Everything was fine,” she tells me, sitting at her kitchen table as the sun goes down behind her. “There was no threat or scariness that something was imminent, that something was going to happen.”

She remembers sitting at this same table, every night for family dinner. Every night at 6 o’clock sharp. No matter what else was going on, Mary, her husband and her three children would sit down here for dinner. Until their last night together, on December 14th, 2004.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

There are many stories about how going to war impacts individuals. But what about the impact of overseas service on families? As we continue our series, Beyond the Battlefield, meet a family whose members have fought battles overseas and back home as well.

"No" is not an option

user Mark Ramsay / flickr

Thousands of high school seniors this month will put on their caps and gowns, walk across a stage, and get their diplomas. Go graduates! 

But it also got me thinking about the countless students who, for various reasons, won't make it to graduation. For instance, students with emotional disabilities, who have some of the worst graduation rates in the country. Fewer than half graduate compared to a national average of around 80%.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Sometimes a family needs more out of a trip to the doctor than what a physician can provide. In those instances, an attorney might be what the doctor orders. It's called a medical-legal partnership, and there are 36 states that have them including one in Michigan that’s helped hundreds of low-income families over the past decade.

Hailee Rose is seven years old, with blond hair and a shy smile who loves math and spelling bees. She has a rare genetic disorder called 22Q, which can manifest itself in many different ways. In Hailee's case, it severely impacts her speech and language development.

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