June 2, 2021 | ,

Reflect Summer Summit: Amplifying Student Voices in 2021

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Being a college student in 2021 can be a handful, with students juggling stressors, challenges, and a pandemic, all while trying to work towards a degree. During these times, it is especially important for students to take care of their mental health. The Reflect Organization works towards improving student’s mental well-being, and is hosting a Summer Summit this year to help students do so.

The Reflect Organization was founded in 2015 by Jared Fenton, a student at the University of Pennsylvania. During Fenton’s first year of college, he witnessed multiple students who were having trouble managing their mental health, as well as students who had trouble opening up and expressing themselves.

Fenton’s freshman year experiences inspired him to take action and launch Reflect. Since then, Reflect has expanded to five other chapters around Philadelphia and in New York State. The organization’s values include authenticity, self-love, allyship, and student empowerment.

Interested in getting involved?

On Wednesday, June 23,  Reflect will be hosting the Reflect Summer Summit from 7-8pm EST, to help students find support, make their voices heard, and make meaningful connections with students across the country.

Students can register here to participate in these peer-facilitated discussions and to enjoy a space designed to celebrate one’s authentic self. Plus, the first 100 people to register will receive a 1-year subscription to Tuck Online from Tuck Barre and Yoga!

To learn more about Reflect and the Reflect Summer Summit, Campus Philly connected with members of Reflect from the University of Pennsylvania, Barnard, and St. Joe’s to hear their story.

 

Jasper Huang (Penn, 2022), Penn Reflect President

Tell us about yourself. How did you get involved with and hear about The Reflect Organization?

Hello! My name is Jasper, a rising senior at Penn, and I’m originally from San Jose, CA. I first got introduced to Reflect from a friend who had actually hosted me for Quaker Days, an orientation program for incoming first-year students. He was president of Penn’s chapter at the time and invited me to a Reflect dinner event.

Why would you encourage other students to join The Reflect Organization?

Mental wellness is one of the most important aspects of student well-being, affecting everything from academic success to interpersonal relationships. However, in high-achieving and fast-paced environments like Penn, wellness topics are often left out of everyday conversations. That’s where Reflect comes in—we host events that provide a safe forum to discuss these topics, or just anything that’s on your mind. It’s also a great way to meet people from all across campus that you may have not met otherwise!

Tell us about the Reflect Summer Summit. What should attendees expect?

The Reflect Summer Summit coming this June resembles the events we have on campus—peer-facilitated discussions about a variety of discussion topics—except this time with students all across the country! Stop by to enjoy meaningful conversations and stay connected with fellow students, especially as many of us return to in-person college experiences this fall.

Let’s talk mental health. How do you focus on your own wellness and mindfulness, especially in light of the pandemic, changing class schedules, and the like? 

What I try to do is set blocks of non-negotiable time aside each week for activities I enjoy doing, like working out, hanging out with friends, and catching up on a TV show. This really helps with maintaining a healthy lifestyle and mindset, even during stressful times like finals.

What do you recommend to other students looking to improve their mental health, or to those who are just starting their mental health journey? Any resources you find particularly helpful?

One book I’d actually recommend a ton is Atomic Habits by James Clear. It’s about practical ways to form good habits and break bad ones, which I found to be really helpful in building a manageable routine for achieving goals. I only wish I had read this book earlier!

Lisa Sholomon (Barnard, 2022), Barnard/Columbia Reflect President

Tell us about yourself. How did you get involved with and hear about The Reflect Organization?

Hello! My name is Lisa Sholomon and I am a New Yorker, born and raised! I am a pre-med Junior at Barnard College studying French and Psychology. I have always been interested in mental health, meditation & mindfulness, and general well-being, which is why I became president of a women’s self-love club at Barnard.

However, I was really looking to be part of a larger organization that had more resources and spread across multiple college campuses. Over the summer of 2020, I found out about Reflect and their quest to find new officers for the Barnard/Columbia chapter. Since I have experience running a club and organizing groups of students, I became the President of the Barnard/Columbia chapter.

What really drew me to Reflect is their commitment to authenticity, self-love, and allyship. Reflect is incredibly devoted to offering virtual discussion-circles and becoming a safe space for students during this era of online learning. Speaking from personal experience, it has been challenging to connect with other students, but during the Reflect events, I see students breaking their walls down to connect with others, to feel less alone, and to make friendships with people who were once strangers.

Why would you encourage other students to join The Reflect Organization?

Reflect is truly a space for students to be completely and unapologetically themselves. We encourage others to not only share their experience, but to listen and learn from others. The Reflect team is also incredibly close-knit. When planning events, the Barnard/Columbia team carefully curates discussion topics and questions that cater to students needs.

For example, during the Fall 2020 semester, we had discussion topics ranging from Mental Health During a Pandemic to Stress Culture & Virtual Learning. During the Spring semester we had discussion groups about Valentine’s Day & Self-Love, Body Positivity & Relationships to Food, and so much more.

What is particularly notable AND unique about Reflect is that we partner with other clubs on campus, like the Columbia Neuroscience Society, UAID (United Against Inequities in Disease), WinkMe (a Self-Love Club for Women), Barnard Psyched, and so many more. We co-promote our events with these clubs in hopes of bringing a diverse group of individuals to Reflect. It is a really great way not only to have meaningful discussions with other students, but to learn about other fantastic organizations and clubs on campus.

Let’s talk mental health. How do you focus on your own wellness and mindfulness, especially in light of the pandemic, changing class schedules, and the like?

What has been most difficult for me is to really feel a part of my campus/community—so I make sure to stay in touch with my friends via FaceTime, text, and even Zoom! And, let’s face it, being online all the time is absolutely exhausting. One way I make sure to take care of myself is to spend time walking in parks, reading good books (if anyone needs any crime-fiction recommendations, I’m your girl!), and picking up new hobbies like necklace-making and cooking. Because this year has been so challenging, I find that trying new things and exploring new parts of my neighborhood has made this year feel much less mundane.

What do you recommend to other students looking to improve their mental health, or to those who are just starting their mental health journey? Any resources you find particularly helpful?

I believe that a great way for students to take care of themselves and their mental health is to join clubs like Reflect. When you’re going through a difficult time, it can be really easy to feel alone—but when you have others around you (whether that be close friends or new faces) to offer support, and to validate your experiences and feelings, it reminds you that you are truly not alone.

I also really recommend downloading apps like Calm and Headspace if you are interested in learning more about meditation and mindfulness. Every morning when I wake up, before I even check my phone, I do a 5-10 minute meditation so that my head is clear for the day.

Our lives are so busy and we are constantly thinking, so practicing mindfulness has allowed me to transform from a “Human Doing” into a “Human Being.” Furthermore, I really recommend that students use the resources that their college campuses offer. Sometimes, it is really helpful to speak to a trained professional, and although it can oftentimes seem daunting to reach out to someone, I know that many colleges have wonderful mental-health services and resources.

Audrey Brown (St. Joe’s, 2021), Reflect Intern

Tell us about yourself. How did you get involved with and hear about The Reflect Organization? 

Hi! My name is Audrey Brown and I’m a 22-year-old senior communications major and journalism minor at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA. I first got involved with The Reflect Organization through a student internship opportunity they had posted about online where they were looking for current college students to help with various digital and multimedia production work.

My experience in those fields was what initially led me to want to apply for the internship. However, in researching and learning more about Reflect itself, I realized that the emphasis they placed on mental wellness and student empowerment aligned with a lot of my own values, and I soon became passionate about working with them myself.

Why would you encourage other students to join The Reflect Organization?

There’s a transformative power that The Reflect Organization has on students—whether you’re involved with Reflect’s chapters and programs, or have attended any of their events. There’s so much power that students have to transform a lot of what we know about campus culture and what we know about authenticity. Reflect’s encouragement and facilitation in allowing conversations about student mental wellness to take place allows those very same conversations to find their way onto college campuses and do their part in shifting narratives around mental wellness that we’ve all grown accustomed to.

I encourage students to join The Reflect Organization any chance I get because I personally believe that open and honest communication is something that’s missing from a lot of college campuses, and having a space that amplifies student voices is unbelievably important.

Tell us about Reflect Summer Summit. What should attendees expect?

The Reflect Summer Summit is a virtual event aimed at both amplifying the voices of college students and also making lasting, meaningful connections. The summit is held on June 23 from 7-8pm EST and involves peer-facilitated discussions that are centered around topics that are designed for you to talk about what you want to talk about, while also allowing room for you to celebrate your authentic self.

Attendees should expect to find a space that is safe from pressure or judgement, and instead find themselves surrounded by support and people who are open to hearing what they have to say. This past year has only further promoted feelings of disconnect and isolation, and the Reflect Summer Summit is a great opportunity to enter a space where you can not only feel a sense of connectedness with others, but make lasting bonds together.

Let’s talk mental health. How do you focus on your own wellness and mindfulness, especially in light of the pandemic, changing class schedules, and the like? 

In working with Reflect and having the opportunity to attend a lot of their events this past semester, I’ve been able to place a greater emphasis on my own mental wellness and learn what works best for me. Especially in light of the pandemic, I’ve seen my normal schedule uprooted and sort of flipped upside-down right in front of me. I get these feelings of “burnout” which I know a lot of college students can relate to. In recognizing this, I’ve been able to focus on small actions I can take everyday that help relieve some of these overwhelming feelings and help set more boundaries in my life.

With online classes, I’ve gotten more into the habit of not attending those from my bed or even in my bedroom. I try to create environments that not only allow me to focus on school and work, but that more importantly separate themselves from my home life so that I’m able to then focus on my personal wellness journey on my own time. For me, it’s all about setting those boundaries for yourself so that it becomes easier to actually take part in your own mental wellness journey.

What do you recommend to other students looking to improve their mental health, or to those who are just starting their mental health journey? Any resources you find particularly helpful?

My biggest recommendation to other students who are looking to improve their mental health and who may also just be starting their mental health journey is to just be patient with yourself. I personally find myself wanting to see results right away and, with most things in life, that’s just not the case with your mental health journey. It’s even in the name itself: “journey.”

Your mental health really is a journey. It’s all about finding what works best for you and learning how to apply that to different aspects of your life. What works best for someone else doesn’t necessarily work best for you. Through my own experiences with mental health, I’ve found that accessing different resources has been incredibly beneficial.

For starters, working with Reflect has led me to learning more about mindfulness techniques and engaging in different mindfulness exercises. Though I know this might not be a resources that works for every one person, it’s a resource that I’ve been able to benefit from and use to my own advantage. But like I said before, you mental health journey is really about finding what works for you and what encourages you to want to keep moving forward.

Anything else to add?

I’ve been so fortunate to have had this opportunity to learn about and work alongside The Reflect Organization. I’ve been embraced by a community that places immense value on mental wellness and the power of student voices to transform campus culture for the better. Having the chance to attend various mental wellness events throughout this semester has encouraged me to take certain actions in my own mental wellness journey, but has also made me that much more excited for the Reflect Summer Summit coming up soon. It’s a great chance for voices to be heard and connections to be made, and I’m so excited to see the impact this event makes!

 

Taking care of your mental health is an important habit that many forget or overlook. We hope the stories of these students gave you helpful insight and tips to support your own mental wellness journey.

If you wish to participate in the Reflect Summer Summit or want to learn more about the event, click here!

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