STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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State of Opportunity fans, here are 3 recommendations for you

user Andrew Blight

Hi there! This is going to be a pretty quick blog post, since I'm knee-deep in documentary tape, but I wanted to share with you a few stories that have resonated with me lately. 

The first is a radio story from This American Life. It's called Three Miles and it's about an exchange program between two high schools: a public school in "the country's poorest congressional district" in the Bronx, and a private school three miles away that costs $43,000 a year to attend.

The reporter, Chana Joffe-Walt, wants to know what kind of impact the "student exchange program" had on the low-income students who visited the elite private school.

What was it like to visit a school that was so close physically and yet worlds away experientially? She tracks down students who took part in the first exchange program a decade ago, and what she uncovers is deeply moving. Listen here.

The second story is from this past weekend's New York Times Magazine. It's about one researcher's attempts to try to understand the so-called "empathy gap" – how that gap manifests itself in the brain, and what makes people act on it. The researcher, Emile Bruneau (full disclosure, I know Mr. Bruneau) is "trying to map when and how our ability to empathize with one another breaks down, in hopes of finding a way to build it back up."

And while his research looks at conflicts between groups of people (Israelis and Palestinians, Democrats and Republicans, Roma and ethnic Hungarians), I can't help but wonder what his findings will do in terms of helping us figure out how to create better social policy as it relates to people in poverty. Read the article here.

The third recommendation is more of a heads-up than a full recommendation, since I haven't seen it myself yet, but want to. It's the movie Short Term 12 and it's about the lives of some troubled teens living in a group home.

I met a number of teens who lived in group homes while I was working on my Finding Home documentary about foster care, so this topic really resonates with me. The film won a bunch of awards, the trailer gave me chills, and hey! SXSW is happening right now and Wikipedia tells me the film debuted at SXSW! Oh wait, it was SXSW 2013. Oh, well. Anyway, you can check out the movie's reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, or check out this reviewby a person who knows firsthand what it's like to live in a group home.

Jennifer is a reporter with Michigan Radio's State of Opportunity project. She previously covered arts and culture for the station, and worked as a producer for WFUV in the Bronx.
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