Families & Community

The connections that build opportunity.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr Creative Commons

The city of Flint has seen better days. Not only did the county just declare a public health emergency due to toxic drinking water in some homes, Flint was named the third most dangerous city in the U.S. earlier this week. 

If you haven’t been paying attention to what’s happening in Flint, you should be. Here are some things to keep in mind when you do:  

Umpqua Community College

Today is my day to write a blog post here. We keep a schedule. It's my turn. I should have gotten it done earlier in the day. Then I wouldn't have to write about another school shooting. 

I've been listening to live coverage from the TV stations in Oregon for the past hour. I've been refreshing my Twitter feed, and reading the comments on Reddit. I've learned nearly nothing. 

Except: At least seven people are dead. At least 20 are wounded. The shooting happened at a school, a community college in a rural part of southwest Oregon. 

Adam Allington / Michigan Radio

Of all the roadblocks between urban communities and economic development, a failing public school is one of the hardest problems to fix.

The Osborn neighborhood in northeast Detroit has been living with this struggle for some time.

 Now, thanks to a surge of support from businesses and nonprofits, Osborn has managed to turn a corner –and the instrument guiding that turnaround has been the neighborhood’s high school.

Wikimedia Commons


 As you may have noticed from the wall-to-wall news coverage, the Pope is in America. Today I tuned in to the Pope's historic address to a joint session of Congress, eager to hear what he had to say to America's leaders on the subject of poverty. As a Jesuit priest, serving the poor was a part of Pope Francis' work long before he was Pope Francis. But it wasn't his own work he mentioned in his speech to Congress. Instead, he talked about the work of Dorothy Day, an American activist and founder of the Catholic Worker movement. 

Of course, I'd heard of Dorothy Day, but I have to be honest and say I didn't know much about her work. I spent a good part of today studying up.

user Santa Catalina School / flickr

I am no stranger to uniforms. I went to Catholic school for 12 years, so from kindergarten through my senior year of high school I had to wear some iteration of white button-down shirt with plaid skirt, jumper or pants. And you know what? I actually liked it. It was so easy to get ready in the morning; no thought went into what I was wearing or whether I looked cool. So from a vanity standpoint and, let's face it, a laziness standpoint, the utilitarian function of the school uniform was a plus.

Wikimedia Commons

They say it's 11 million people. Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers. People who are living in the United States without a piece of paper to prove they have the legal right to do so. 

The people who are charged with writing laws have so far come up with no law that can solve this problem. But there are ideas. One idea in particular seems to be getting a lot of air time lately: Just round up all these 11 million people and send them away. 

Let's try to imagine what that would look like. 

EdBuild / US Census, 2006-2013

In the aftermath of the Great Recession the number of students living in poverty is continuing to increase. That is the key finding of seven years of data taken from every public school district in the country. This data was organized geographically by EdBuild, a new national nonprofit focusing on funding for public education.

Shifting Demographics

Renee McGurk / Flickr

Last week on State of Opportunity, we shared Alex’s story about how hard it is for kids in foster care to get a car, let alone a driver’s license.

Transportation isn’t just an issue in rural areas of the state like Berrien County, where Alex was 20 miles away from everything. It can be a huge barrier for folks who live in the city, too - like Amber Thomas.

user fdecomite / flickr

How did you land your first job? I'm not talking about the first job you got out of college, I'm talking about the first job where you earned a paycheck and then probably went out and immediately spent it on music and movie tickets.


I first met Alex back in January, when I did a story about aging out of the foster care system.

Alex lives in rural Berrien County. At a minimum, he's 20 miles from everything; college classes, any work he could find, really everything. He didn't have a car, so he caught a lot of rides with Paula Laquerre, a state worker helping Alex as he left the foster care system. During those rides they would plot how Alex was going to finally get a car.