New students can make friends, get involved with Fresh START

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- New Penn State University Park students interested in doing something good for the community while making friends and having fun can sign up for Penn State’s Fresh START Day of Service.

The University’s largest day of service -- scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 8 -- is especially for incoming first-year, change-of-assignment and transfer students and introduces participants to various service opportunities at Penn State and in the community. Volunteers are placed in smaller groups that offer students a way to get to meet other new students as well as upper class team leaders.

Jonathan Basso, a senior from York, Pa., majoring in rehabilitation and human services, signed up for Fresh START his freshman year at the Student Involvement Fair  during his first week at Penn State.

“I always liked to give back in high school and thought this would be another chance to do so, plus you get a T-shirt and a water bottle,” Basso said. “I got to meet new people that I’m still in touch with, and it turned out to be really beneficial for my entire Penn State experience.”

Basso’s Fresh START group was assigned to clean THON mats that are used to protect the floors of the Bryce Jordan Center, where THON is held each year. While the task sounds mundane, Basso said his team leaders -- upperclassmen volunteering to lead their teams in each project -- taught them about the importance of THON and of the work they were doing. They also made it fun, making games out of the cleaning and using them to make their own interpretation of a Slip 'N Slide. Not only did Basso volunteer as a team leader for Fresh START for his next three years at Penn State, he also has participated in THON himself.

Volunteer opportunities for Fresh START students are both on campus and in the State College community. Uma Pattarkline, a junior finance and accounting major from Mechanicsburg, Pa., and the director of public relations and outreach for Fresh START, said volunteers can work on cleaning up highways, neighborhoods and playgrounds; volunteer at animal shelters, food banks and nursing homes; and work at various other service sites.

“Getting up at eight in the morning on a Saturday to volunteer is part of the spirit of Penn State and what I love about my school,” Pattarline said. “Being able to help people and make a difference in their lives is amazing, and there are a lot of great service opportunities at Penn State.”

As a team leader for Fresh START last year, Pattarkline said the most important part of her role was to help new Penn State students not only get to know their peers and be a friend to them herself, but to also educate them on how beneficial serving the community can be, to interest new Penn Staters in volunteering in the future. For Pattarkline, Fresh START led to her involvement in other community service days, and she started a THON team for the Schreyer Honors College.

“If you’re new at Penn State, it’s a great way to start your Penn State career,” Basso said. “It’s a great way to start off on the right foot and branch off to other organizations from there, if interested.”

Last Updated April 19, 2017