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VOLbreaks Learning Partners

VOLbreaks Learning Partners

An integral part of this program is our faculty/staff and graduate assistant learning partners (LPs). These members are not involved in planning the trip but serve in an advisory capacity throughout the duration of the trip. Learning partners aid the student trip leaders if any issues arise on the trip, and they get to fully experience an Alternative Break trip while volunteering alongside the students. Learning Partner applications for 2021-2022 will be open in the beginning of July through the beginning of August. For those who are interested in serving as an LP for the VOLbreaks program, you should still fill out and submit this Permission To Attend Form.

Serving as a Learning Partner is a fantastic way to meet other UT students and staff while giving back to a new community. There is no trip cost associated with being a Learning Partner. Each trip consists of about 7 student participants, 2 student trip leaders, and 1 learning partner.

If you have questions, email María Martínez at maria@utk.edu.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

There are a lot of acronyms in the VOLbreaks program:
• Participants – Every trip is made up of about 7 selected UT students, or trip participants. Participants are involved in pre-trip meetings and service in addition to bringing back the knowledge they learned on the trip to the community of Knoxville.
• VOLbreaks Leaders (VBLs) – Undergraduate student leaders who are paired together to plan and lead the trips. Some have been on previous AB trips and some have not. The ABLs are trained throughout the semester on different topics such as civility, BreakAway’s Eight Components of a Quality Alternative Break Trip, diversity, simple living, and much more!
• VOLbreaks Student Directors (VBSD) – This position is filled by a previous VBL and they work all year to enhance the program. They assist the graduate assistant over the VOLbreaks program with a variety of tasks such as training the ABLs, fundraising, social media, etc.
• Learning Partners (LPs) – That’s (perhaps) you! LPs are UT faculty, staff, or graduate assistants who support the VBLs before, during and often after the trips. LPs serve in an advisory capacity to enhance the service and learning that happens on each trip. They participate in all service, reflection and FUN that happens on each trip.
• Fall VOLbreak – takes place during UT’s Fall Break and trip locations must fall within a 5 hour radius of Knoxville.
• Spring VOLbreaks – takes place during UT’s Spring Break and trip locations must fall within an 10 hour radius of Knoxville.

• Winter VOLbreaks – takes place during UT’s Winter Break and trip locations must fall within an 10 hour radius of Knoxville.


Since 1993, the mission of the VOLbreaks Program is, and has been, to engage students in meaningful and collaborative community service in an effort to increase awareness of social issues and strengthen the communities in which they serve as well as foster a strong sense of community among trip participants and to the university as a whole.
During VOLbreaks trips, students travel in small groups (10-12 people total) to new areas where they collaborate with local service agencies to meet specific community needs. Each trip is centered around a service theme that helps students gain a well-rounded perspective of a specific social issue. Students will take steps toward becoming an active citizen by participating in pre-trip meetings and educational opportunities, meaningful reflections throughout the trip, connecting everything they’ve experienced to the Knoxville community by participating in a pre or post-trip service project, and a post-trip reorientation event. All trips are ‘alcohol and other drug free’ to all participants, no matter their age.

You should note that every day will be a little different, but a typical day on an Alternative Break starts around 7am for breakfast and ends about 10pm with reflection. All participants (students, VBLs and LPs) are expected to participate in all activities, including service and reflection.


VBLs plan all meals and are in charge of shopping for the group (LPs often help with the food shopping). Breakfast and lunch are ‘on your own’ in the sense that participants can help themselves to bagels, cereals, fruit, etc. for breakfast and sandwich meat, bread, peanut butter, granola bars etc. for lunch. Participants
are responsible for packing their own lunches from this purchased food. Dinners are planned for the group but are usually cooked by a ‘dinner crew’ (half of the participants) while the other half cleans up. The concept of ‘simple living’ is an important factor of VOLbreaks meal planning. Each participant is allotted $6 per day ($1 for breakfast, $2 for lunch and $3 for dinner) in the VOLbreaks food budget. For example, one VOLbreaks dinner can cost $45 max to prepare ($3 x 12 participants). Meals must stay low-cost because of our adherence to ‘simple living’. Food preferences/intolerances are definitely important to the VOLbreaks leadership and we will make every effort to accommodate. However, if those restrictions require higher-cost items, the participant may be asked to supplement some items due to our low food budget. You are more than welcome to bring your own snacks on any VOLbreaks.


Just like you don’t sign up for an VOLbreaks trip for the filet mignon (see above FAQ), you don’t sign up for the 5 star sleeping quarters either! We obtain free housing 99% of the time to keep our costs low and to live similarly to those we are serving. This means we sleep on church floors, multi-purpose rooms of Salvation Army’s, shower at YMCAs, etc. You should plan on bringing your own sleeping bag and are welcome to bring an air mattress, if you prefer.


There’s not a lot of free time on an VOLbreaks trip! However, you are welcome to talk on the phone, catch up on emails, etc. after reflection when the group usually plays games and settles down for the night. We just ask that you stay present (both mentally and physically) for the VOLbreaks experience. If you know someone in your city, the expectation is that you don’t leave the group. This is an ‘immersion experience’ and for some of the same reasons the experiences are alcohol and drug free, we want the group to stay together to have an immersive experience in this experience.