Franco Harris Memorial FastStart Program Endowment

Since its inception in 1996, FastStart has supported the matriculation, persistence, academic achievement, and professional development of first-year Penn State students from underrepresented populations by pairing them with two mentors – one Alumni and one Faculty/Staff – giving the students an on-campus mentor, as well as one who can speak to his/her experiences as a student and the power of the alumni network.

Our Chapter is the first in the PSAA to commit to establishing a $25,000 endowment for the FastStart program which will help support students and provide additional funding to allow it to spread out to our Commonwealth Campuses. We were able to design the endowment to specifically support students at Penn State Greater Allegheny, where there are already 100 students enrolled in the program. And, with Dana’s blessing, we named it for our friend Franco, to honor his passionate advocacy for the importance of mentorship. Thanks to a matching contribution from the Penn State Alumni Association, this $50,000 endowment will help provide the critical support needed for these at-risk students to thrive.

To learn more about FastStart and how you can become a Mentor, visit

What is FastStart?

FastStart is a triad mentoring program that pairs a Penn State student with both a Faculty/Staff mentor and an Alumnus mentor, sponsored by the Penn State Alumni Association. Historically focused on University Park students, the FastStart program helps first-year students and those from underrepresented backgrounds get their college careers off to a fast start.

The goal of the FastStart program is to help students flourish in their new environment by answering questions, directing students to resources, offering support and wisdom, and providing informal networks for career development.

The FastStart program is managed by the Student and Young Alumni (SYA) Team at the Penn State Alumni Association. It is executed on the Mentor Collective (MC) platform. Once the mentees and mentors sign up for the program, MC places the matches. The student and mentors then navigate their mentorship through both the MC platform itself and through virtual and in-person meetings. The platform is managed by a team member in the SYA office. After a year, the mentorship is no longer managed on the platform; however, the students and mentors may continue the relationship as they wish.

How does FastStart connect the PSAA’s priorities?

The FastStart program connects directly with the Penn State Alumni Associations priority of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. It also aligns with the PSAA diversity statement, “The Penn State Alumni Association is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive membership, one where all identities, experiences, and backgrounds come together to create a strong and welcoming alumni community representative of the Penn Staters it proudly serves.”

Where Can I Learn More?

Marlo Mendez (mentee)
“My one goal is keeping up with school work from home. I am doing well with that goal so far. Learning to adapt to my environment applies to many aspects outside of school, considering the world we live in today.”
Laila Hosni (mentee)
“FastStart is a program at the Alumni Association that matches first-year students with two mentors to help them adapt to college and find their path. My mentors have truly shaped my Penn State experience. I have developed tools to balance academics, work, and other involvement on campus. The FastStart program was an incredible resource in transitioning smoothly to Penn State.”
Amaris Smith (mentee)
“One goal my mentor and I have set is to help build my resume and profile. She’s teaching me a lot about balance in life. She makes me want to cry just because she is easy to talk to and I feel like I can be vulnerable with her. I’m honestly so happy I was matched with her!”