Founded by Dave Theis as an outgrowth of Penn State's Executive Internship Program, Fresh START began in 1999 with the goal of introducing students new to Penn State to the myriad service opportunities in the State College area. During this first year, approximately 150 students traveled to nearly a dozen service sites throughout the Centre County region. In 2000, Alyson Levin continued the successful system of pairing team leaders with first-year participants and more than 200 first-year students participated that year. During this second year, Fresh START added a post-service volunteer involvement fair where students could explore various clubs and organizations at the University Park campus. Under the direction of the overall chairperson for 2001, the numbers of student participants climbed to nearly 600 participants and team leaders. This was the first year that the program included change-of-assignment and transfer students.
Improving on this already successful program, Fresh START 2002 drew nearly 750 participants and team leaders who worked at approximately 50 service sites throughout the community, including Black Moshannon State Park, Dance Marathon, Centre County Community Hospital, and Centre County PAWS. Further, nearly 10 percent of the first-year student population participated in Fresh START Day of Service 2002.
Fresh Start 2004 was an amazing success. With the creation of a new logo and tag line, "Get Rooted with Service," and the outstanding work of the 15-member committee and more than 150 Team Leaders, Fresh START attracted nearly 1,000 volunteers who worked on thirty-three service projects ranging from the United Way, University Park Nursing Center, Greenwood Furnace State Park, Foxdale Village, Arc of Centre County, and A Woman's Concern. A speech was given by Joe Battista, the Nittany Lion showed up to greet the crowd, and all of the students received free t-shirts!
Fresh Start 2008, in keeping with the vision of the program, sought to engage as many new students in quality community service as possible. While working towards this goal, the planning committee was able to debut a new logo to renew the face of Fresh START and draw more students to the program. The logo is reminiscent of the old logo through the integration of the familiar tree, suggestive Fresh START's tag line "get rooted in service". The lion portion of the logo was made more evident because this symbol is one dear to the hearts of all Penn Staters.
The introduction of the "volunteer.psu.edu" website to the Penn State campus allows quicker more effective access to community service opportunities. For the first time Fresh START allowed students to sign up for the day of service on this website. This partnership allows new students to become more familiar with this service access point to encourage further community service.
The Fresh START program was shared with the commonwealth campuses this year as well. The initiative has been made in the past to pilot this program at other campuses but this was the first year that an event actually took place.
The fourteen members of the planning committee were able to plan the largest day of service to date at Penn State, with 775 volunteers contributing over 2,000 hours of service to the State College community in one day.