Families & Community

The connections that build opportunity.


Kent County Sherriff Deputy Patrick Stewart was on his lunch break last week. Lunch, in his case, was at 12:30 in the morning. He stopped at a fire house in the town of Cutlerville, on the outskirts of Grand Rapids.

"And I heard a very loud knocking, pounding on the door," he says. "When I got to the door, there was a frantic man there saying that he had somebody – his buddy – in the back of his vehicle, and had ODed on heroin, and was no longer breathing."

Stewart called for an ambulance, and started chest compressions on the man. When the ambulance arrived, the paramedic who came to help is actually Stewart’s wife, Amanda. She gave the man a drug called Naloxone. It works as basically an antidote to a heroin overdose, reviving someone who’s on the verge of slipping away. Together, the newly married husband and wife saved the man’s life.

That part of the story is remarkable.

Everything else about it has become far too common, says Kent County Undersheriff Michelle Young.

user stockmonkeys.com / Flickr



Connections is a State of Opportunity documentary about the power of networks.

Some questions we tackle: How do you create a network when you live in poverty? What networking advice would you give to a teenager from a low-income family? In terms of mentoring someone you have no connection to: Why do it? When you're locked up in prison, away from everyone and everything you know and love, how do you build a new life for yourself when you get out? 

user Hans Poldoja / Flickr

If you don’t have a network, it can be very difficult to advance socially or in your career. One non-profit leader I spoke to called it a “crisis of relationships.” 

That’s exactly the kind of crisis Deondr’e Austin faced five years ago. He says as far as finding a legal job, it was hard. "As far as find anything else that was bad in the world, the network can find a lot of bad things."

StockMonkeys.com / Flickr


In some circles, "network" is a dirty word, something we don't like to talk about lest we admit out loud that maybe, just maybe, we didn't get where we are in the world today by grit and determination and hard work alone. But I'm guessing that many of us got where we are today through a combination of hard work and a few helpful connections along the way.

5 things to remember when talking about Flint's water crisis

Oct 2, 2015
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.