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Students pose for a photo at one of the VOLbreaks volunteer sites in Memphis.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s VOLbreaks alternative break program celebrated its 30th anniversary with a trip to Memphis, bringing incoming students, current students and alumni together to serve the community.

Jordan Garrett Staley, a sophomore microbiology major from Knoxville, has participated in three VOLbreaks during his time at UT. He and his peers spent eight days in Memphis for spring break, volunteering with Clean Memphis, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis, the Memphis Dream Center, the Mid-South American Red Cross and the Mid-South Food Bank to foster their understanding of community development and sustainability.

“It keeps getting better each time,” said Staley. “I love getting to serve different communities and work with people I wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s an incredibly fun and eye-opening way to spend breaks.”

In celebration of the program’s 30th anniversary and for the first time in VOLbreaks history, incoming students and alumni were invited to join current students for a day of service.

William Blankenship, a 2022 biomedical engineering graduate who now lives in Memphis, spent a day volunteering with the Mid-South American Red Cross alongside his Vol family.

“Volunteering as an alumnus and connecting with current and incoming students was a great experience,” said Blankenship. “I was able to bond over shared experiences as well as give advice to fellow Vols.”

Since 1993, VOLbreaks has organized service opportunities and facilitated transportation for hundreds of students at UT, allowing them to serve communities and gain new perspectives on the world beyond campus. By interacting with local leaders and carrying out short-term projects with community agencies, students can develop a transformed world view that fosters lifelong social action.


Maggie Palmer (865-974-3993,

Landin Lynd (865-974-9202,​