Korina Barry: Creating 'the community we deserve'
As U of M alumna Korina Barry transitions from a career in child welfare to a new position in Indigenous advocacy, she reflects on her own personal journey.
For most of her life, Korina Barry (BA ’09, MSW ’11) has either seen or experienced the struggles of Indigenous youth, a foster care system that often fails Native children, and cycles of family trauma. It motivated her to become a social worker, and it guides her ongoing work to help others.
“I want to help heal my community and people within my community,” says Barry, who is Anishinaabe from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. “That has stayed with me all throughout my experiences.”
After a decade working in child welfare—the first half in Indian child welfare and last half as director of outreach for the U of M’s Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare—Barry now works for the all-Indigenous organization NDN Collective.
Barry’s own journey—professional and personal—has never been easy. As a youth her family experienced issues of alcoholism, drug addiction, and “high mobility” (she had to move around a lot) while her parents were incarcerated.
Fortunately, a counselor at Minneapolis South High School encouraged her to apply for college, and with a strong support system at the University of Minnesota, Barry flourished.
In her first year at the U she lived with a cohort in the American Indian Cultural House, and she joined the multicultural sorority Sigma Lambda Gamma in her second semester. Barry worked multiple jobs and earned a number of scholarships in order to continue her schooling. She earned her master’s in social work at the U of M, becoming the first Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community Scholar to earn a degree.