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Seventy UT students will put their Volunteer spirit to work next week helping the disabled, youth, and senior citizens in five communities during UT’s Alternative Break program.

The program, now in its twenty-third year, gives UT students the chance to spend their fall and spring breaks involved in service projects in areas where they collaborate with local service agencies to meet specific community needs.

The five trips—to Saint Louis, Missouri; Tampa, Florida; New Orleans; Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina; and Chicago—begin on Sunday, March 15.

Coordinated by the Center for Leadership and Service, the trips aim to increase students’ awareness of social issues and strengthen the communities they serve as well as foster a sense of community among trip participants. Each trip is centered on a service theme that helps students gain a well-rounded perspective on a social issue.

“Students take a break from their studies and routines to see things in a new perspective, engaging with a community and helping them to meet their needs during an Alternative Spring Break trip,” said Brandon Darr, a senior in the College Scholars program and student co-leader of the rural education disparities trip. “Participants will bring those new perspectives back to their classes from their experiences on the trips.”

Saint Louis: Disability and ability awareness

In Saint Louis students will lead cooking and decorating classes, help youth play adapted sports, and work to prepare an event for World Down Syndrome Day.

Kristin Woodward, a senior in mechanical engineering, and her student co-leader chose Saint Louis because a large percentage of the city’s population has some form of disability.

“Because Saint Louis has this high percentage, there are many established organizations in the area that need volunteers to help continue their work,” she said. “We want to serve with these groups and learn more about their work so we can bring back what we have learned to the Knoxville community.”

Tampa: Animal outreach

The students traveling to Florida will groom and care for barn animals and build enclosures for endangered exotic animals.

New Orleans: Neighborhood renewal

Another team of students will work to improve a public charter school’s organic garden, restore a historic local cemetery, and repurpose remnants from one of the town’s historic festivals.

Roanoke Rapids: Education

Students heading to North Carolina will focus on easing rural education disparities. They will help children in day care, assist teachers at a charter school, and tutor students at a Title I school.

Chicago: Community development

Students will work alongside community members including students, seniors, and the homeless. They will assist with an after-school teaching program, lead exercise and computer programs with senior citizens, and prepare a special community dinner.

For more information on the Center for Leadership and Service Alternative Breaks program, visit the Center for Leadership and Service website.

Media Availability: Members of the media are invited to cover the departure of all five Center for Leadership and Service Alternative Spring Break trips at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 15. Groups will depart from the bottom level of the N7 parking garage on the corner of Volunteer Boulevard and Andy Holt Avenue across from the Allan Jones Aquatic Center.


Katherine Saxon (865-974-8365,