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Participants of Ignite Knox volunteer to help clean up Zoo Knoxville

Since 1993, VOLbreaks alternative break programs have allowed hundreds of students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to serve communities and gain new perspectives on the world beyond campus. Next week, several Volunteers will spend their spring break in six communities across the US. The program’s vision is to engage students in various quality alternative breaks to help them become active and educated members of society.

María Martínez, coordinator of UT’s Jones Center for Leadership and Service, says one of the main missions of VOLbreaks is to ensure that participants are purposefully engaged in creating and developing valuable skills and competencies. Through participating in VOLbreaks, students are able to gain skills such as effective communication, critical thinking, and cultural competency.

“Through the program, we seek to create meaningful experiences not only for the communities being served but also for the students participating on the alternative break trips,” said Martínez.

Brandon Solsbee, a senior mechanical engineering major from Etowah, Tennessee, has participated in several VOLbreaks during his time as a student, learning about topics that include immigration and education.

“I am so grateful that a program like this is able to exist, and it is such a good opportunity for people to make the most of their time off during the semester,” said Solsbee.

After completing the program, students like Solsbee are able to learn more about serving their local community and becoming more active citizens.

“Active citizens are individuals who prioritize community in their values and life choices,” said Martínez. “They continuously engage with social issues that matter to them and the people around them. Attending a VOLbreak can help students feel connected to their UT community while also gaining awareness of their ability to create positive, sustainable change in the areas they care about.”


Lindsey Owen (865-974-6375,

Alyssa Seisser (865-974-9200,