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- Photo by Kellie Crye Ward - 06.22.17

’Tis the season for giving, so it’s especially fitting that a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, office recently hit a monumental milestone for helping students give back to the community.

The Center for Leadership and Service, a campus nexus for educating and engaging students in meaningful leadership and service opportunities, began tracking service hours six years ago, and this fall, students passed the 500,000-hour mark.

During the 2017–18 academic year alone, more than 250,000 hours were tracked.

“This is a milestone we’ve been wanting to hit for a while,” said Laura Ketola, coordinator in the Center for Leadership and Service. “While the number is certainly impressive, the pride point is not the number of hours but the impact that has been made with those hours.”

The center works with community partners to provide weekly and monthly service opportunities. Students choose projects with the center’s Sign Up to Serve tool. They are encouraged to track their service hours as they’re completed. Additionally, students can do their own service and use the center’s tracking tool.

In addition to the weekly and monthly opportunities listed, the center offers a variety of other options for students who want to give back, including:

VOLbreaks: This year marks the 25th anniversary of the university’s Alternative Breaks Program. Since 1993, the program has allowed more than 2,500 students to use their breaks to engage in meaningful community service across the United States.

Ignite: The Ignite program has welcomed thousands of incoming freshmen and transfer students each summer to jumpstart their leadership journey by learning UT traditions, discovering their leadership potential, and meeting other new students and student leaders. Two of the programs, Ignite Serves and Ignite Knox, include opportunities for participants to serve in the community during the program.

Prague Immersion Experience: This annual short-term study abroad experience in the capital of the Czech Republic allows students to learn about active citizenship through a global perspective. During the trip, participants serve with an organization to assist displaced people.

VOLServe Days of Service: The center offers monthly service opportunities in partnership with various campus departments and community agencies. Students have the chance to network and interact with other students, community members, and staff, while addressing community needs.

“Students have served communities both domestically and abroad in a variety of ways,” said Ketola. “For us, this is what it means to be a Volunteer. In addition to the positive impact on communities, we hope these hours have benefited the students by introducing them to new people, gaining new skills and perspectives, and increasing their ability to empathize with others.”

In addition to service, the center provides students with opportunities to grow in their leadership skills through a number of programs including Leadership Knoxville Scholars, Emerging Leaders Course, Leadership and Service Ambassadors, and the Clifton M. Jones Student Leadership Conference.


Katherine Saxon (, 865-974-8365)