Jared Fenton: Founder of The Reflect Organization

Jared founded Reflect after researching mental health as a student at the University of Pennsylvania. Now, Reflect has chapters on several college campuses that are working to support the mental health of students so they can be their best selves. With honest discussions and innovative programs, Reflect is empowering students to create a culture of allyship, authenticity, and self-love at their schools.


Note: This interview has been edited, transcribed, and condensed.


Where did you get the idea to start Reflect?

My first year at the University of Pennsylvania, I would get lunch with a random person every day. I did that because I didn’t know too many people, so I would walk up to someone sitting alone, and ask to join them. Once I sat down with these students, it seemed like a lot of them weren't being open about who they really were, like they were putting on these detrimental, metaphorical masks of effortless perfection. Half way through that year, my classmate Maddy Holleran died by suicide. Towards the end of the year, I found one of my friends in crisis. I did what I could for my friend, and thankfully today they are alive and happy. I witnessed firsthand the harmful effects of what came to be known as “Penn Face” on the mental wellness of my fellow students. I was fortunate to be accepted into a program at Penn which funded me to perform the first mixed-method research into “Penn Face”. As a result of my research findings and with the help of many, I was able to found the first chapter of Reflect, called Penn Reflect, to help address college student mental wellness.

What kinds of programs do you offer?

We have a number of different programs and have expanded significantly since I graduated. One of our programs, Reflect Roundtables, focuses on providing space for students to engage in open, authentic, mutually supportive dialogue. Another program, called Reflect & Connect, engages students in smaller groups that meet more regularly. There are also webinars, training sessions, workshops, and more. We have helped Peer Career Advisors to better understand and break down the “Penn Face” when advising undergraduates. Recently, we advocated for using the term “physical distancing” instead of “social distancing”, because although it’s important to stay physically distant from the virus, it’s critical we connect with each other socially. Ultimately, the World Health Organization began recommending the term “physical distancing” over “social distancing.” We’re grateful to be able to support the mental wellness of college students in all these ways and more.

What does the future hold for Reflect?

Ultimately, our vision is to help spark a cultural shift on college campuses away from this metaphorical masking, away from the loneliness and isolation, and towards a campus culture defined by allyship, authenticity, self-love and student empowerment. I believe Reflect’s goals are achievable, and college students have a tremendous amount of power in making them happen. Our work is founded on a principle called “One Caring Person,” which states that just one person – by being non-judgmental, a steady presence, and believing in someone else to be their best self – can help another to build resilience and break cycles of adversity. Anybody can be that One Caring Person. We want to inspire more and more people every single day to care for themselves, and if they are able to, be that One Caring Person for someone.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

The fact that every single day, I get the opportunity to help others and make a positive difference in people’s lives.


If anyone wants to contact us, they can email info@reflecteffect.org. We have a ton of ways people can get involved, including an internship program. Also, if anyone needs their One Caring Person, they can write to us with the subject line “You’re my One Caring Person.” We are here to help.