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VOLbreaks UTNews
Students on a VOLbreaks trip smile for a photo.

While spring break can be an opportunity to relax with family and friends, some students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, choose to dedicate their week to serving others. VOLbreaks, the university’s alternative break program, allows participants to serve communities and gain new perspectives on the world beyond campus.

Since 1993, VOLbreaks has facilitated service opportunities and transportation for hundreds of UT students, allowing them to interact with local leaders, carry out short-term projects with community agencies and develop a transformed world view that fosters lifelong social action.

“VOLbreaks engages our students in meaningful community service through a diverse array of service opportunities,” said Natalie Frankel, assistant director for the Jones Center for Leadership and Service. “The program aims to instill civic values and leadership skills, with VOLbreaks learning outcomes including issue awareness, advocacy, and community engagement.”

Four VOLbreaks trips are traveling across the Southeast this spring, focusing on community development, animal outreach and welfare, youth development and neurodevelopmental differences.

Community Development

This trip to Asheville, North Carolina, will define community development and collective action. Students will work with local organizations to learn about the city’s underserved communities, working specifically with the overlap between youth, education, homelessness, substance abuse and inequity.

Trip leaders are Micayla Domingues, a senior from Knoxville, Tennessee, studying civil engineering, and Sarah Carmichael, a senior from White Pine, Tennessee, studying English and Africana studies.

Animal Outreach and Welfare

In Savannah, Georgia, students will take a hands-on approach to animal welfare. Throughout the week, the group will engage in service opportunities with local animal welfare organizations while learning about wildlife conservation and animal safety.

Trip leaders are Jordyn Forbes, a sophomore from Memphis, Tennessee, studying civil engineering, and Erin Field, a sophomore from Malvern, Pennsylvania, studying public relations.

Youth Development

Students will dive into the heart of Charleston, South Carolina, to make a lasting impact on its youth. Hands-on service opportunities with local youth organizations will allow the group to develop their leadership and teamwork skills.

Trip leaders are Sarah Vernetti, a senior from Signal Mountain, Tennessee, studying music education, and Emerson Clement, a junior from Houston, Texas, studying English.

Neurodevelopmental Differences

This trip to Moncure, North Carolina, will focus on youth development and neurodevelopmental differences. Students will volunteer at a camp for people with autism, getting to know the campers through scheduled activities while assisting and supporting them in areas of communication, social interaction, behavior and self-care.

The trip leader is Colin Zimmer, a sophomore from Marietta, Georgia, studying business management.


Maggie Palmer (865-974-3993,