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Justine Hong (T’13), Co-Founder of Peer for You

Justine (right), and with the other founders of Peer for You, Lindsay Barnes (left) and Grady Lenkin.

President Brodhead poses the same challenge to incoming freshmen here at Duke every year: Leave Duke a better place than how you found it at the beginning of your undergraduate career. Chances are, Justine Hong can rest assured that she did when she graduates this May. A senior Public Policy major hailing form the San Francisco Bay Area, Justine is one of the three founders of Peer for You, a brand new resource for Duke undergraduates launching October 17th.

The mission of Peer for You is simple; the website aims to make it easy for any Duke student to reach out and find what they need in a time of mental struggle. This can range from reaching out to a peer, receiving feedback and support, and getting connected with the appropriate resources. To accomplish this, Peer for You allows for any undergraduate student to send an anonymous message to the organization’s trained Peer Responders describing a challenge or struggle he or she is currently facing. Students are guaranteed to receive a response and possibly a referral within twenty-four hours. The ultimate goals of this service are to facilitate the sharing of personal experiences and to encourage students to take advantage of existing, supportive resources on campus.

The idea for Peer for You originated last Fall in Tony Brown’s Social Entrepreneurship in Action class. Justine, along with the other Peer for You Founders Lindsay Barnes (T’14) and Grady Lenkin (T’14) recognized a hole in Duke’s undergraduate support system. “Many students no longer go to their RAs or FACs when they are going through a tough time,” says Justine. “It’s not that their RAs or FACs are unavailable; rather, many students feel more comfortable expressing their feelings anonymously.” So instead, Duke students turned to online blogs run by various campus organizations to discuss their problems and the deeper issues facing the Duke community as a whole. However, this posed some problems as well. “There are a lot of anonymous blogs at Duke that allow students to reach out discuss their struggles,” Justine explains. “The problem is that many of the posts do not get any responses. Students are able to reach out anonymously, but few of them actually receive the supportive services that they need in return.” So Justine, Lindsay, and Grady set out to fill this gap by creating Peer for You.

What sets Peer for You apart from other online campus resources is the fact that any undergraduate can send an anonymous message to a Peer Responder and is promised a response within twenty-four hours. Peer Responders are Duke students, selected through a two-part application process and trained by Duke CAPS to respond to the various struggles that undergraduates cope with on a daily basis. Peer for You is also unique in the sense that students can select the Peer Responder to their message based on the Responder’s personal background and credentials. The purposes of this service are to make posting students feel as comfortable as possible, and to foster a more meaningful connection between student posters and Peer Responders.

While Peer for You is a brand new organization at this point, the founders have many goals for the long-term. According to Justine, the ultimate goal of Peer for You is to catalyze “meaningful campus culture change. Students are definitely becoming more comfortable and willing to discuss the issues that they face. We hope that Peer for You will work alongside other existing campus services and organizations to create an environment in which students are more comfortable speaking to their friends about their personal struggles.” From the looks of it, Justine is well on her way to making Duke a better pace than she found it.

Peer for You launches October 17th at midnight! For more information about the organization, check out their Facebook, Twitter and Organization pages, or email dukepeerforyou@gmail.com.

 

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