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Around 240 students spent part of Tuesday morning packing bags of supplies for the homeless and creating other items to help kids, the elderly, and shelter pets.

Another 250 first-year students rolled up their sleeves and ventured out into the community to work on projects to help others.

All of these efforts were part of the university’s Ignite Serves Program.

Ignite programs allow incoming students to jump-start their time at UT by learning more about the university and experiencing what it means to be a Volunteer. Started in 2001, the programs welcome nearly 900 incoming freshmen each year to participate in the four programs: Ignite Serves, Ignite Knox, Ignite Leadership Summit, and Ignite Outdoors.

Ignite Serves is the part of that program that gives new students a chance to learn leadership skills and develop friendships while helping Knoxville organizations serve the area’s at-risk populations.

“One of the best things about Ignite is giving students a first taste of being a Vol. Volunteer Spirit is a core value we have at UT,” said Ignite Serves student director and senior Madison Murphy of Knoxville.

Murphy participated in Ignite her freshman year, too, and has been involved with the program ever since.

“I have loved seeing how things have changed and how some of my own ideas have been implemented,” she said. “They get to meet new people and those people will always be familiar faces on campus. I know that I can call on any of the people that were on my freshman Ignite team anytime.”

For the first time this year, Ignite Serves launched its “satellite program,” giving students a chance to work on service projects without leaving campus.

These students packed supply bags that will be distributed to the homeless by the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee Office on Aging. They loaded backpacks that will be distributed to schoolchildren by the Boys and Girls Club of the Tennessee Valley. They painted flowerpots for residents of the Sherrill Hills Retirement Resort and visitors to the Ronald McDonald House. And they made dog and cat toys for the East Tennessee Humane Society.

Emmie Davenport, an incoming freshman from Chicago, arrived on campus Monday.

“My dad went to UT and I grew up coming to campus for football games and just fell in love with it.” Davenport, who plans to major in social work, said the quality of the program was a big draw for her.

Carly Broady, an incoming freshman from Denver, said she loves the atmosphere and the leadership aspect offered at UT.

“Ignite is amazing because there are so many of us involved, we can do so many things to serve Knoxville,” said Broady, a member of the Honors Leadership Program, who plans to major in political science.


Katherine Saxon (865-974-8365,