Vikings mother and son team up to raise the ‘Barr’

Courtesy of the Barr family (l-r) Nicholas Barr, Lori Barr and Anthony Barr

“Growing up I remember my mom working so hard as we lived at my grandparents’ house. She would be exhausted at night after a full day of classes and shifts at two different jobs,” said Minnesota Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr, who along with his mother Lori established the Raise the Barr Foundation in 2016.

Anthony Barr was born in South Bend, Indiana and grew up in Los Angeles. He graduated from LA’s Loyola High School and stayed home for college, choosing to play football on scholarship at UCLA. At UCLA he earned All American honors as a linebacker.

In 2014 he was selected ninth in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. During his career Barr has been named to three Pro Bowls.

The experiences of mother and son motivated them to found Raise the Barr to help single-parent students and their children succeed. Lori was 19 and entering her sophomore year of college when she got pregnant with Anthony. She was able to graduate college “through the support of family, juggling multiple jobs and a whole lot of hard work and commitment.”

As a single mother, Lori said she earned both post-secondary and post-graduate degrees, while raising her sons alone and working for hourly wages, ultimately earning a salary with a “family-sustaining wage.”

According to Lori Barr, Raise the Barr Foundation is committed to increasing opportunity and economic mobility for low-income single-parent students and their children through education. Raise the Barr provides single-parent families access to resources that have been proven to lead to educational success for the entire family.

The foundation works in collaboration with cross-sector partners to help families gain access to affordable, safe housing, quality early childhood education, health and well-being services, scholarships and emergency grants, empowerment and life-skills, and social capital. Single-parent students who reside in Minnesota and California and have financial need are eligible to apply.

“With Raise the Barr, I see myself in the faces of the children whose parents are working to change the trajectory of their lives, and I am honored to have the opportunity to help others going through the same experiences my family had,” said the Vikings linebacker.

“Anthony shares his story to serve as an example of what’s possible when a community places value on family,” said his mother.

Raise the Barr responded to the impact of COVID-19 on student parents and their families in March by distributing $17,500 in emergency grants in 24 hours to all Raise the Barr scholars. “Our work doesn’t end when a single-parent receives a scholarship or emergency grant,” said Lori Barr. “We are very intentional about the programs we develop and the support needed for a single parent to achieve a post-secondary degree.

“Raise the Barr has helped a lot of single mothers achieve their educational goals, and the success stories are inspiring. One of the biggest challenges is ensuring sustainability, especially during these very difficult times,” Lori said of the organization’s struggles. “Fundraising is challenging as a new organization, but so far we have been able to capture an audience that believes in our mission.”

 In 2020, Raise the Barr launched the Minnesota Student Parent Alliance (SPA) to provide student parents in Minnesota access to navigational and advisory services partnering with the University of Minnesota Twin Cities’ Student Parent HELP Center (SPHC). Lori said the partnerships will enable RTB to expand their reach.

In October the Aspen Institute named Raise the Barr as a recipient of a $25,000 grant from the Aspen Parent Powered Solutions Fund​, the first student parent-led fund dedicated to advancing the work of organizations and initiatives that support student parents’ postsecondary success,” explained Lori Barr

The nonprofit plans to use the funds to invest in student parents, using them as expert consultants and incorporating them into all aspects of planning, programming and decision-making, including adding two student parents to its advisory board and compensating them for their time.

“Spreading the word about what we do is an important part of our mission,” said Lori Barr. “We aim to shift the mindset of what a traditional family looks like, and we can’t begin to change this narrative without sparking conversation with others around this important topic.”

“Leading this organization means that I work intentionally with children and adults in their lives together,” said Anthony Barr. “Our work doesn’t end when a single-parent receives a scholarship or emergency grant. That is just the beginning. This approach allows us to build life-long, meaningful relationships with families that will continue for many years to come.”

“By far the most rewarding aspect of running this organization are the relationships that are built, the families we become a part of and share success with, and the accomplishments we work towards together,” observed Lori Barr.

You can learn more about the work of the Raise the Bar Foundation by visiting www.raisethebarr.org

About Ashley Lauren

Ashley Lauren is a contributing writer at the MN Spokesman-Recorder. She can be reached at alauren@spokesman-recorder.com.

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