Series & Documentaries

Families & Community
8:00 am
Fri October 31, 2014

Here's what one foster family does to help make life a little easier for kids in care

The Kley Family Rules poster hangs on the kitchen wall, and is a visual reminder to any foster kid who walks in the door that this is a safe place.
Credit Sue Kley

State of Opportunity aired a documentary yesterday on foster care. All this week, we're publishing a series of articles that explore specific aspects of the foster care system, and some of the challenges kids within that system face.

Imagine being removed from your home, from the only place you've really ever known. You're taken away from your parents, your toys, your bed, maybe even your siblings, and told that you have to live here, in this new place with these new people. Imagine what that must feel like.

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Families & Community
4:00 pm
Thu October 30, 2014

Finding Home, a documentary about foster care [transcript + audio]

Audrey and her two brothers were adopted out of foster care.
Credit Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio


What does it feel like to be removed from you parents’ home? From the ones who were supposed to protect you and keep you safe?


I want to introduce you to a set of siblings. Let’s start with the oldest one Andrew. He’s an intense little guy who’s 9 years old and very much into superheroes.

ANDREW: My favorite Marvel superhero is Spiderman.

AUDREY: Want to see my best friend?

That’s Audrey, his little sister, she is <<FIVE!>> and adorably shy.

And finally, there’s Braden, the ham of the family.

BRADY: Let it Go! Let it Go! Can’t hold it back anymore

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11:31 am
Fri January 31, 2014

1000 Facebook likes and feedback on The Big Test

Credit Loozrboy / Flickr

We've passed 1000 "likes" on our Facebook page

What does this mean? It means that we're building a community of listeners who are concerned enough about the well-being of Michigan's children to engage with us on social media. Teachers, education students, administrators, staff, parents, and even some kids chime in about what they've heard on the air and on our SoundCloud page.

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11:12 am
Mon December 30, 2013

Oh, the documentaries you've missed this year! Catch up now.

Lelu the Pug feels your post-holiday blues.
Credit trophygeek / Flickr

How are you preparing for the new year? Cleaning the house from top to bottom? Clearing out paper and files? Changing smoke alarm batteries? Yes, you really should do that.

Whether you're working, relaxing, or pondering what 2014 holds, catch up on State of Opportunity's thought-provoking documentaries.

2013 saw us cover: what race means to kids today; the gap in educational achievement in two local school districts; and how we as a society are defining manhood.

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1:27 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

The Education Gap [transcript and audio]

Credit Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio


Break out your number two pencils and a notebook, because we are headed back to grade school. From Michigan Radio, this is State of Opportunity, I’m Jennifer Guerra.

We’ll visit two 5th grade classrooms this hour. One class is made up of kids whose families are mostly well-off:

In general the kids have a lot of help. Their parents are role models. Most of them come from families where their parents are reading as well, or they’re working and have to do work at home, so they’re kind of modeling those things.

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Families & Community
12:10 am
Thu July 25, 2013

Be a Man: A story in six chapters [transcript + audio]

Dan Hornbeck said he was an easy target for bullies. Then he started martial arts.
Credit Dustin Dwyer

Chapter 1 

"That’s when you need somebody."

Fourteen-year-old Mario lives … somewhere in Grand Rapids. He doesn’t want to be identified on the air.

He sits, dressed in a plain white t-shirt, khaki colored pants and white, low-top Chuck Taylor All-Stars. We’re in a sunny hallway at the downtown Grand Rapids campus of Grand Valley State University. Mario is here, attending a summer program from the Hispanic Center of West Michigan – a program meant to help keep kids on track academically while school is out. 

Next year, Mario will be in the eighth grade, at a middle school in Grand Rapids.

I ask him if it's a pretty good school. "Kind of," he says. I ask him what isn't good about it. "There's too much gangs, stuff like that."

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4:00 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

A documentary on race, neighborhoods, schools, and kids in Michigan [transcript + audio]



JENNIFER GUERRA: It’s time to have the talk. I know, it’s not gonna be easy. Might get a little uncomfortable – maybe make you squirm a little. But it’s time. I’m Jennifer Guerra with Michigan Radio’s State of Opportunity project. For the next hour, we’re going to talk about RACE.

Now I know some of you listening right now are thinking Race? Really? It’s 2013. Aren’t we past this by now?

Good. I was hoping you’d ask that.

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4:53 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

Stockbridge Series: Is college readiness enough?

A glimpse into technical classes at Stockbridge High School
Logan Chadde

The schools in Stockbridge, Michigan have in some ways a sad task in educating their youth. Because Stockbridge is a rural village with very little economic opportunity preparing kids to succeed often means preparing them to leave town.

Teachers and administrators at the high school there don't think it's enough to try to prepare thier students for college. College is expensive, and though most of the kids will pursue higher education of one kind or another, paying for it can be tough. 

So teacher Duane Watson and a few others are heavily invested in technical education. Watson has three rooms he teaches in, to call them classrooms might give the wrong impression.  In one of them, the only desks are broken ones people hope his students will fix. 

It's a garage and I was impressed that three full cars could fit in it before Watson corrected me.

“Four actually, and one compact utility tractor, a snowplow going on a truck, a completely student fabricated tandem-axle trailer, and an alternative fuel vehicle-a battery powered golf cart." He said as he laughed about the golf cart experiment.

This shop is part of a serious effort by Watson and the schools in Stockbridge to keep technical classes from slipping out of the curriculum, like they have at a lot of other places. Plenty of the equipment in the auto shop was donated by schools who shut their programs down.

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5:06 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Stockbridge Series: Is middle school worth the trouble?

Stockbridge's middle school has begun to implement programs to improve student behavior and build technical skills.
Angie Eagle


When Gabe Schray was in middle school in Stockbridge, he admits he was kind of a mess. He got bullied, in part because he was a new kid. He moved to Stockbridge to live with his dad after he had to leave his grandparents house.

“Yep, my grandfather he died in front of me, so, you know, " said Schray.

That trauma and the social difficulty he had made school almost an afterthought. He continues, "So honestly I just did homework when I felt like it. What the teachers said didn’t matter to me because of what was going on outside of school. My grades were very poor because of that. You know the reflection was so clear it was like a mirror. The more that was going on the worse my grades were.”

Schray started to get it together after his freshman year of high school. He says joining the football team saved him. He's a senior now, and he is well-liked, funny, confident and going to a good college next year.

New research suggests Schray was lucky, because by tenth grade if kids don’t believe they can achieve after high school it’s likely they won’t. That’s even more true for low-income kids, and almost half the kids in Stockbridge are low-income.

Many kids start to set their expectations low or downgrade their dreams in middle school, and it sticks. They pick up on and care about others expectations for them.

In Stockbridge the middle school doesn't seem to be held up as a point of pride in the community like the other schools. Middle school principal Brad Edwards describes it this way, “Kind of like the middle child if you will. Just kind of gets left out." 

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4:03 pm
Tue October 9, 2012

Infant mortality [transcript + audio]

JENNIFER GUERRA: I want to introduce you to a young mom, her name is Angela. She’s 21 years old. She lives with her son in a two bedroom, section eight apartment, just outside Detroit in Highland Park.

ANGELA: I have one kid and one on the way. Want me to say his name? His name is Darrion, he’s three years old.

JG: Darrion has a crazy amount of energy. He likes to bounce around his two-bedroom apartment like the springiest frog you’ve ever seen. He’s also a very big fan of toy cars. And soon, his mom tells me, Darrion is going to be a big brother.

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