Barry is the first Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Scholar
to earn a degree
at a wind-blown table outside a sandwich shop in downtown Minneapolis,
Korina Barry summarizes the drama of her high school days as if
she's describing yesterday's lunch.
out of Minneapolis Roosevelt for fighting at the start of her senior
with her father, her aunt and uncle, her grandmother, the next place
with an available couch
she's matter-of-fact in describing her challenging teen years, Barry
is quick to point out one important woman from those daysa
counselor at Minneapolis South High School named Patty. College
was barely a blip on Barry's radar screen, even in her senior year,
but Patty encouraged her to apply. And when she was turned down
the first time at the U, Patty encouraged her to try again.
that point on, and with a strong support system at the University
of Minnesota, Barry flourished.
years later, she has bachelor's degrees in child psychology and
American Indian studies, and this spring she completed her master's
degree in social work. By doing so, she became the first Shakopee
Mdewakanton Sioux Community Scholar to earn a degree with help from
the scholarship program begun three years ago.
is now a senior social worker in the ICWA (Indian Child Welfare
Act) long-term foster care unit at Hennepin County. She works with
youth ages 13-21 trying to keep them on track or, as the case may
be, turn things around.
"They're all really great kids," she says. "They just kinda get
stuck in sticky situations
trying to be a parent, trying
to find a job, trying to find housing when they don't have rental
Almost every one of the youth I've worked with has
become homeless after aging out of foster care or leaving a foster
care home and going on their own. It's because there aren't systems
set up to help them. So this program definitely helps with that."
is Anishinaabe (Leech Lake Band) but grew up in south Minneapolis.
While her parents struggled with addictions, she shuttled from home
to home, especially after her father went to prison as she was starting
my dad went to prison I was living with him, and then I kind of
lived with my aunt and uncle, couch hopped for a while, lived at
my grandma's house for a while. [She laughs.] I was all over the
didn't have the support or the push that some students get from
family," she adds. "So if it wasn't for that counselor, I probably
wouldn't have made it through college."
her first year at the U she lived in the American Indian Cultural
House, surrounded by similar students in a comfortable cohort. "It
forced you to build a support system and not isolate yourself, which
I think a lot of students doespecially minorities at the U
of M," Barry notes.
also joined the multicultural sorority Sigma Lambda Gamma in her
second semester. Founded in 1990, the sorority's local chapter has
women from 25 different nationalities.
if it wasn't for the sorority and the friends I made out of it,
I wouldn't have made it through undergrad
or even grad school,"
says the same thing about her scholarshipssome 15 to 20, by
her estimate. "I'm definitely the scholarship queen," she jokes.
Barry came across the social work master's program at the U, she
knew that was her calling. "I've grown up around the situations
that social workers work with," she says. "And I always knew I wanted
to give back to the community."
what makes it easier for me to do the work I do now with the youth
I work with," she adds. "I've been through these experiences. These
kids can relate to me; I can relate to them.
I want to push them and I want to be Patty for themthe counselor
I hadbecause a lot of them have no support system."
of the girls Barry has counseledwho endured more than 45 foster
care placementsrecently completed a program at Le Cordon Bleu
cooking school and now has two different jobs as a chef.
makes Barry feel even better about her career choice.
a fulfilling job in that I know that even the smallest things I
can do for them are helping them to succeed," she says.