Clear-Eyed Visionary

USD alumnus Jimmy Bried


When Jimmy Bried ’16 (BBA) came to the University of San Diego as a transfer student in 2014 to continue his interrupted higher education, he knew he had his work cut out for him.

A few years earlier, he’d withdrawn from the University of Arizona to enter rehab. Upon emerging — with sobriety firmly in hand — he worked construction and took a few classes before deciding to resume his undergraduate studies full time at USD.

“Construction taught me humility, discipline and punctuality,” he recalls. “It built the foundation for me to go back to school to get a degree.”

Now an enterprise account manager for Amazon Web Services in Seattle, Bried prefers life to be busy. “As a sober person, I like to have other things to focus on,” he says. An inveterate go-getter, he started looking at graduate programs and completed his MBA from Pepperdine University in the summer of 2019. While most of us would feel that it might be time to relax and enjoy the fruits of all that hard work, Bried felt compelled to give back so that others could have the opportunities to succeed that he’s had.

“When I was a student at USD, Assistant Vice President for Student Wellness Melissa Halter and Julie Barnett were hugely supportive. They’d meet with me weekly to talk about being a sober student and give me tips on how to navigate college life.”

Bried realized that he wanted others to have the same second chance that he’d had. “I recognize how fortunate I am; I’ve had emotional and financial support from my parents and support from rehab, from sober living and also while I was in school. I know how much of a rarity that is. I wanted to start a scholarship but had no idea what it takes. I did know I was willing to donate $5,000 to make it happen.”

Halter suggested he reach out to Philip Garland, assistant vice president of Advancement Operations. “We started riffing back and forth, and then Philip suggested the USD Changefunding program,” Bried recalls. “Everyone was amazing throughout the process. I worked with Jessie Szumski at USD; we went back and forth coming up with the marketing content behind
it and sharing my story.”

It was a perfect fit: Much like the online fundraising platform GoFundMe, USD’s Changefunding requires applicants to set a goal and expects those seeking funding to have a network of
people they’ll solicit to contribute. These efforts typically run no longer than eight weeks, and 100 percent of the money raised goes toward the projects.

Bried’s efforts were wildly successful: The Bried Family Scholarship for Sober Students fund has exceeded its initial goal of $5,000, ultimately raising more than $15,000. Bried — who matched the first $5,000, which was raised in one day  — is thrilled with the results. “I feel so grateful for all the money that people donated. It’s great that they support the idea of helping existing sober USD students with at least of year of sobriety,” he says.

Throughout his journey, he remains mindful of all the help he’s had along the way. “I want to show my family how grateful I am,” Bried says. “Naming the scholarship after my family means a lot to me.” He’s also cognizant that he’s now in a position to offer guidance to others trying to navigate their own sobriety.

“I think a big part of being sober is having small accomplishments along the way; having both short- and long-term goals. For me, going back to school kept me really busy with a lot of short-term goals.”

In concert with Halter, he developed requirements for scholarship applicants. “We decided to prioritize students who were directly in recovery with more than a year of sobriety. From there, we narrowed it down to students applying to, or enrolled at the University of San Diego who were looking to complete a bachelor’s degree,” he explains.

Bried is enthusiastic about encouraging others with ideas for projects that could make a difference for students to consider starting their own Changefunding effort.

“I was surprised at how easy it was once I started to take action. If you have a well-vetted vision and you think you can get support, there are people who are willing to work with you in the name of doing something philanthropic. And I was really excited that other people were excited with me.”

For Bried, it all comes back to walking the walk, not just talking the talk. “I don’t think it would have garnered as much attention if people didn’t already know my story and think, ‘Hey, I’ve seen the change in him over the past few years. I’m willing to bet that somebody else can do the same.’”Julene Snyder

Learn more about the Bried Family Scholarship for Sober Students.

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