|Mike Barbieri was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 28, 1949. Raised in the city's underprivileged Grays Ferry section, Mike learned early how families survived through support from relatives, neighbors and community leaders. Mike first came to Delaware when he was recruited to play football for the University of Delaware by legendary coach Tubby Raymond. In 1969, Mike took a year off from the University of Delaware to join the National Guard but returned to school the following year and spent the next two seasons on the offensive line, where he played guard. He helped the Blue Hens win a national championship in 1971, his senior season. Inspired by a coaching staff that emphasized the "student" in student-athlete, Mike made the Dean's List his senior season and completed his degree in Sociology. Upon graduation, Mike took with him Coach Raymond's mantra of avoiding complacency. Through teamwork and determination, Mike learned, there is no capacity to what can be accomplished.
Mike returned to Philadelphia to become a probation officer in the city's drug unit and begin a career devoted to combating drug abuse. By counseling criminals with addiction, Mike discovered that abusers lacked proper education, resources and support to stay committed to cleaning up. In 1973, he was awarded a fellowship from the Probation Department to attend Temple University to obtain his master's degree in Social Work. In 1980, Mike returned to the University of Delaware part-time to earn his Ph.D in Urban Affairs and Public Policy with a concentration on health care delivery. He gained the education necessary to inspire change from within the administration.
Mike and his family settled in Newark in July of 1986, when he became the Executive Director of Hidden Brook, a drug-treatment facility in nearby Bel Air, Md. In 1991, Mike focused his attention on developing adolescent services in Delaware. He founded "Crossroads of Delaware," a Wilmington-based adolescent substance-abuse treatment program.
Mike's work with adolescents has been the primary motivation for his political aspirations. He has seen the struggle of working parents trying to provide for children without affordable health care. Mike aspires to improve an educational system unable to address the needs of students due to limited resources and external forces that emphasize testing over learning. He sees an overcrowded juvenile justice system without proper funding that lacks answers for repeat offenders, and an erosion of an employment base to support middle-class families. Mike believes drug problems run deeper than financial Band-Aids and inadequate policies that appear tough on paper – such as the "Gang and Bullying Bill" – but soft on results. He believes politicians should be held accountable for their actions and paychecks and he finds pandering to special interest groups unacceptable.