Master of Social Work graduate Barb Lara uses degree to help others

Mar 22, 2022
Barb Lara uses social work degree to help others

Divine intervention.

That’s what got Barb Lara into the field of social work.

Lara and her family moved to Colorado in 1995 so that her husband could attend Nazarene Bible College in Colorado Springs. Once he graduated and started interviewing for church ministry jobs, Lara realized she hadn’t prepared for own her role in ministry.

She was 41 years old at the time.

“I asked God what in the world I needed to do,” she recalled. “The very next day, a magazine came in the mail that talked about higher education, and I knew that was what I needed to do.”

The first steps

Lara enrolled in a local community college and began classes that fall. After she received her associate degree, she realized that she was most joyful when helping others. This prompted her decision to pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work from Colorado State University-Pueblo.

Barb Lara, director of client services at Springs Rescue Mission in Colorado Springs
Barb Lara, manager of client services at Springs Rescue Mission in Colorado Springs

During that time, Lara also worked for a child placement agency, Kids Crossing, which licenses and supports foster families. Her role there enabled her to work with both foster parents and the biological parents of children in foster care.

After wrapping up her undergraduate studies, Lara’s friend from church showed her a newspaper clip of the Diocese of Colorado Springs’ announcement that Newman University was starting to offer classes at an outreach location in Colorado Springs.

She applied to the Master of Social Work program, which at the time specialized in family-centered social work, and started her studies in fall 2005.

“I had looked at a few other master’s programs, but the convenience of having classes here in town and having weekend classes worked really well with my work schedule,” Lara said. “The family-centered social work perspective was also something I was looking for. It was a great fit for me all the way around.”

Lara graduated with her master’s degree from Newman in 2007 as part of the second graduating class from Colorado Springs. She then took a position with the nonprofit she interned with as a student, Fostering Hope Foundation. The organization recruits volunteers from the faith community to form teams to assist and support foster families.  

The family-centered social work perspective was something I was looking for. The program was a great fit for me all the way around.”

Barb Lara on the MSW program for Newman University – Colorado Springs campus

“I came in on the ground floor of the program and had a hand in forming it,” Lara said.

She worked at Fostering Hope Foundation for 12 years before taking a role as the manager of client services at Springs Rescue Mission in Colorado Springs. There, Lara leads a team of six social workers that supports shelter guests trying to rise out of homelessness.

Rounding out a career in social work

Lara is now 65 years old and looks forward to retiring from her career in social work within the next couple years. However, she plans to continue volunteering as long as she can.

“As one of my professors stated, social work happens at the cellular level. It’s in our DNA,” she said.

Lara added, “The best part of social work for me is the way social workers serve others and how it aligns perfectly with my Christian beliefs. I can rest my head on my pillow every night knowing that the work done for that day was pleasing to God.”

Earn a Master of Social Work degree

The Master of Social Work program, with a focus in trauma-competent practice, offers students a supportive and individual education in the classroom and in Field Education.