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Providing support to nonprofit organizations serving immigrants and refugees. Learning about the cycle of poverty in rural communities. Assisting in-home building projects.

These are just a few of the ways some UT students will be spending their fall break.

UT’s Jones Center for Leadership and Service will be sending nine teams—with a record 107 participants—on alternative fall break trips to serve in communities across the Southeast and Midwest. Students will be working on projects addressing various focus areas including youth development, public health, and food insecurity.

Teams depart on Thursday, October 17, and return Sunday, October 20.

This year marks the 26th anniversary for the VOLbreaks program (formerly known as the Alternative Break program), which allows students to participate in collaborative community service in an effort to increase awareness of social issues and strengthen the communities in which they serve. Trips take place during the university’s designated fall, winter, and spring breaks.

Trips are student-led, with each team directed by two student VOLbreak leaders who plan and execute the experience with help from JCLS staff, graduate assistants, and student coordinators. Faculty, staff, and graduate assistants will serve as learning partners, accompanying each group and volunteering alongside the students.

The program allows students to give back to communities across the country, embodying what it means to be a Volunteer. Student participants are assigned to trips through a lottery event in which they choose themes rather than locations.

Here’s a look at the upcoming trips:

Immigrant and Refugee

Students will travel to Durham, North Carolina, to explore the legal process of coming to America as well as policies that affect immigrants and refugees after settlement. Partnering with Church World Service Durham, participants will learn about outreach and engagement opportunities for immigrant communities.

Wealth and Youth Development

Working with the Boys and Girls Club in Memphis, this team will serve with community organizations that work with low-income youth.

Public Health

Students will travel to Atlanta to explore the multilayered discipline of public health. Partnering with the Southwest Ecumenical Emergency Assistance Center, participants will help promote self-sufficiency, prevent hunger, and address homelessness by assisting SWEEAC in providing food, clothing, household items, and resources to individuals and families with emergency needs.

Food Insecurity

Students will learn about food insecurity by working with community partners in Birmingham, Alabama, that value agriculture, combat consumer misconceptions, and fight hunger. One participating organization is Community Kitchens, a nonprofit that provides lunches 365 days a year to those in need.


This team will work with public schools in Montgomery, Alabama, and with local organizations such as That’s My Child, a nonprofit that mentors youth through arts, entrepreneurship, and education to help them become productive citizens.

Environmental Justice

Traveling to Charleston, South Carolina, students will learn about inclusive sustainable practices and how to leave a positive impact on the environment. They will assist groups like Keep Charleston Beautiful, an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, which works to promote a clean and beautiful environment for all Americans.

Disability Awareness

Traveling to Indiana, students will partner with the Arc of Greater Indianapolis to learn how to help and advocate for the disabled community.

LGBTQ+ Advocacy

This team will explore issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community related to youth development, homelessness, health, and public policy. Students will work in Columbus, Ohio, with the local nonprofit Kaleidoscope Youth Center, which provides a safe place, programming, and leadership opportunities for LGBTQ+ youth.

Affordable Housing

Students will travel to Nashville, Tennessee, where they will work with a variety of nonprofits including Habitat for Humanity. Participants will help families build and improve homes while exploring the issue of affordable housing in a rapidly growing city.

Other Opportunities through the JCLS

In addition to this year’s fall and spring VOLbreak trips, the Jones Center for Leadership and Service will offer a winter VOLbreak to Austin, Texas, with a theme of immigration. From December 14 to 20, students will volunteer at community organizations and learn about the immigration system and the challenges faced by immigrants when they arrive in the United States as well as those faced by the Austin community.

Additionally, the center will offer an international immersion experience March 14–21 to Prague, Czech Republic. This short-term study abroad experience will allow students to learn about active citizenship through a global perspective. Students will tour the city, visit historical sites, and volunteer with Dignity Restoring Hope, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that assists displaced people in the community. Participating students will take a course in the spring to reflect on their experience and find ways to serve the refugee population in Knoxville.

Students from the Volbreaks program.


Maddie Stephens (865-974-3993,

UT 225th anniversaryThis story is part of the University of Tennessee’s 225th anniversary celebration. Volunteers light the way for others across Tennessee and throughout the world.

Learn more about UT’s 225th anniversary