Mike & Victor

Air date: 
Friday, June 29, 2012
Produced by Alex along with Amy Drozdowska, the piece won a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism and and Edward R. Murrow Award. It was aired on WBEZ and The Story.

This is a story about how one family is made and then remade. It begins in 1993. Mike Checuga was 24 years old and single, making fistfuls of money selling real estate. Mike was working such long hours – and thinking only about making money – that one day his boss tells him, demands, really, that he take a day off each week and volunteer somewhere, maybe at the orphanage Mike knew about through his church. So he did. That’s where he met Victor, a 9-year-old boy who was drawn to Mike – and Mike to him.


Chicago is one of America’s most iconic, historic, and fascinating cities. For Alex Kotlowitz, an accidental Chicagoan, it is the perfect perch from which to peer into America’s heart.

Separated by a river, St. Joseph and Benton Harbor are two Michigan towns that are geographically close, yet worlds apart. St. Joseph is a prosperous, predominately white lakeshore community while Benton Harbor is impoverished and predominately black. When the body of Eric McGinnis, a black teenage boy from Benton Harbor, is found in the river that separates the towns, relations between the two communities grow increasingly strained as longheld misperceptions and attitudes surface. 

There Are No Children Here chronicles two years in the lives of two boys, Lafeyette and Pharoah, struggling to survive in Chicago’s Henry Horner Homes, a public housing complex disfigured by crime and neglect. 

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