Temple University Harrisburg alumni are doing amazing things. Syngred Briddell, a December 2006, Masters of Social Work graduate of Temple University Harrisburg, resigned from her job at Dauphin County Crisis Intervention after 11 years of service to start her own non-profit group. In 2001, she was awarded a Citation for Heroism by Harrisburg Mayor Steven Reed, for the successful intervention of a suicide attempt on the Harvey Taylor Bridge. Read on to find out more about Syngred and her non-profit group, the Magnificent Minds Project.
Syngred decided to go into Social Work for many reasons, "almost too numerous to count" she says. As is often the case, people´s life experiences lead them to the social work profession and this was certainly the case with Ms. Briddell. Growing up, there were people who reached out to help Syngred through turbulent times in her life. Syngred said, "There were moments when I or other people I knew, desperately needed assistance and I watched various systems fail us. It was a very helpless feeling." Syngred did not want anyone to have to feel that way. She wanted to do what she could to make sure people were getting the attention and care they needed. The situations that Syngred experienced throughout her life, had an impact on her young mind and for her, it lit a fire that ultimately caused her to become a social worker. Empowering people became one of Syngred´s personal mission´s in life.
Syngred´s father is a Vietnam Vet, who like many, experienced PTSD and her mother experienced bouts of depression throughout her childhood. Both were artists and exposed Syngred to all forms of art early on and she became an artist as a child. Syngred played the cello for 12 years and always had a great love for the arts. As Syngred grew up and life experiences allowed her to become cognizant of how societal problems can affect people´s mental health, she became very interested in social work and the mental health field. Syngred obtained her Associates degree in Social Services at Harrisburg Area Community College and then her BSW at Shippensburg University. After working in emergency mental health services at Dauphin County Crisis Intervention for about 5 years, Syngred made the decision to pursue her MSW at Temple University Harrisburg. Because the "mission of the School of Social Administration reflects a strong commitment to the elimination of human suffering, social injustice and to the promotion of human rights and social equality," Syngred focused her education on helping individuals become agents of change. For Syngred, coming to Temple "really perpetuated the idea of righteous indignation and utilizing that in advocacy for social justice. My desire to create the Magnificent Minds Project came from seeing the social injustice of the stigma that exists in our society for those who have a mental illness. As someone who loves the arts, I knew all too well the tremendous contributions that artists with mental illness have made to our society historically and continued to make. Whether it was Beethoven or Picasso or Van Gogh, the utter brilliance and beauty on a global scale that exists because of individuals with mental illness was not the image that accompanied societal depictions of the mentally ill. This is a great injustice because that stigma has robbed individuals of the dignity or pride that they should feel for their talents, while viciously attacking their self esteem and overall sense of self worth. I wanted to join the fight to change that stigma."
The Magnificent Minds Project initially began as a just a "project." Syngred wanted to find a way to celebrate the immense creativity, ingenuity and artistic brilliance that exists within individuals who have mental illness and organize the community to join this effort. In light of recent budget cuts experienced by the mental health system in PA, Syngred also felt this would be an extraordinary way to show these individuals the strong support they have from their community; if she could get the community to donate their resources to benefit these artists. Syngred started by contacting and meeting with all the directors and executive directors of local mental health service providers and "pitching" the idea to them. Syngred received an overwhelming amount of support immediately from these organizations including NAMI PA and the Mental Health Association in PA, who focus on statewide policy, advocacy and education initiatives on behalf of those with mental illness. Ultimately, Syngred worked with 14 major mental health service providers in Dauphin County and Cumberland County to offer opportunities to artists with mental illness. Syngred has been busy fundraising for the Magnificent Minds Project, taking orders for art supplies, purchasing art supplies and delivering those supplies to the artists since the project´s first art exhibit in January at Gallery Blu. "It has been a wonderful experience!" says Syngred. "Since our start in January 2010, we have had three art exhibits in professional Art Galleries: Gallery Blu, the Art Association of Harrisburg´s gallery at the Reservoir Mansion and the Mantis Collective Gallery. We have arranged for artists to have their work displayed in 16 businesses / professional establishments throughout the Harrisburg and Camp Hill area, including the offices of Senator Robert P. Casey."
Syngred also created a Magnificent Minds Project free website: www.magnificentmindsproject.com, where artists can display their art featured in the gallery exhibits along with bios / information about themselves and what inspires their art. They are able to connect with their community, as well as learn about other famous artists with mental illness and their contributions to society. Syngred wanted the site to be set in a blog type format so she could have the site be more interactive with comments from viewers. Syngred is currently designing the www.magnificentminds.net site, which will be dedicated solely to displaying artist´s work along with contact information so they may direct people to the site as a venue to view their work. Syngred is creating the design to allow for artists to be able to have their own tab that will give them their own page to display their work exclusively. So a visitor will be able to go to the site, click on the tab with the artist´s name and access their art work. The artist´s contact information will be accessible for anyone who would like to purchase their work or offer them further opportunities to display it. Artists will be able to display their work free of charge and may simply contact Magnificent Minds with their information to access this opportunity. "Social workers have to be resourceful and I actually taught myself how to create and maintain a website, codes, graphics and all" says Syngred. "As I embarked on this amazing journey, I decided that I wanted to turn the Magnificent Minds Project into an actual non-profit organization. In July, I resigned from my job at Dauphin County Crisis Intervention after 11 years of service. In September, the Magnificent Minds Project became incorporated in the state of PA and we have applied for 501c3 status. We are very excited to see what the future holds for this organization" says Syngred.
Temple Harrisburg alumni are doing fantastic things through the community, check back to see what TUH alumni are creating and doing. To find out more about Magnificent Minds, visit the website at www.magnificentmindsproject.com.