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About VOLbreaks

As we consider the changes and challenges that COVID-19 brings, we have reimagined our VOLbreaks experiences for the spring semester. The future of this pandemic is uncertain and ever changing, therefore we are hosting virtual/local experiences and encouraging participants to think about active citizenship within a local lens.


Why East Tennessee? It’s our own backyard. We go to school here. We play here. We are influenced by and have the potential to influence what happens here. Each of our stories has become heavily woven into the fabric of East Tennessee. We all have a stake in what becomes of it.





Spring 2021 VOLbreaks Weekend Immersion Dates:

Weekend 1: March 19-21

Weekend 2: March 26-28

Weekend 3: April 9-11



Local Weekend Immersion Sign-Ups

 Sign-ups will be live after the VOLbreaks interest session on Wednesday, February 3 at 7pm!


Weekend 1 – March 19-21

About: With the United States housing one of the largest populations of immigrants, this topic is frequently centered centered in the media, politics, and everyday conversation. Throughout the trip, we will explore systems and barriers set in place that affect immigrants both before and after settlement. We will also explore the process of immigrating, the intersection of the immigration deportation machine with the prison industrial complex, and day-to-day experiences. .

Trip Leaders: Christina Cho and Kendall Flores

Cost: $10 (includes t-shirt)

Click here to sign up!

About: Although the United States promises “justice for all,” access to justice through the legal system is severely limited. The right to an attorney is only guaranteed in some cases. In others, lawyers are inaccessible because of expenses, among other factors. This trip will focus on the various barriers to legal representation in Knoxville, TN through online service learning and education. We will learn how race, class, gender, immigration status, education level—and more—affect one’s ability to obtain a lawyer and whether or not justice can actually be served within the United States failing legal system. We will then volunteer with organizations that support communities who have historically not been able to obtain justice through the courts, as well as organizations that provide legal representation to these communities for free or at a reduced price. Finally, we will discuss how we can work together to change this system and eliminate the “justice gap.”

Trip Leaders: Saylar Epperson and Taylor Dempsey

Cost: $10 (includes t-shirt)

Click here to sign up!

Weekend 2 – March 26-28

About: This VOLbreaks trip will focus on educational disparities, especially as it relates to differences in race, gender, and socioeconomic status. Education is key to developing individuals who contribute positively to society and provide enlightenment. Education also plays a large role in youth development. Whether or not children have the resources to acquire the attitudes, social skills, and values needed to flourish in adulthood is highly impacted by their education and adolescent environment. Our trip will also focus on how race and income disparities play a role in overall youth development.

Trip Leaders: Jada Palmer and Claire Heatherly

Cost: $30 (includes t-shirt, transportation costs, food)

Click here to sign up!


About: Adequate access to reproductive healthcare services is essential for maintaining overall health, yet many people living within Appalachia do not have access to these services. Reproductive health inequities occur nationwide and reflect disparities in both the access and quality of care marginalized people receive. These inequities are rooted in racism, classism, sexism, transphobia, and more. They combine with barriers to care that are specific to the Appalachian region—such as the lack of widespread public transportation—to create unique obstacles to accessing reproductive healthcare in the region. Additionally, the lack of widely available comprehensive sex education and cultural stigmas surrounding specific healthcare services also negatively impact the health of people living in the region. This trip will focus on learning more about the unique needs of Appalachian people and the importance of comprehensive sex education, and we will be virtually volunteering with community groups that are working to increase access to reproductive healthcare services and comprehensive sex education.

Trip Leaders: Kayla Sims and Olivia Fairweather

Cost: $10 (includes t-shirt)

Click here to sign up!

Weekend 3 – April 9-11

About: East Tennessee is well known for its variety of public lands. From the Smoky Mountains National Park to Ijams Nature Center, the public lands around Knoxville play an integral part in its culture. Along with this, public lands are important for conservation purposes. On this trip, participants will assist in the activities needed to upkeep public lands. We will engage in conversations about equity and access to public lands as well as the intersection of environmental issues with other social topics. Service will mainly be performed outdoors and mask and social distancing protocols will be followed.

Trip Leaders: Kaylee Walper and Olivia Crawley

Cost: $30 (includes t-shirt, transportation costs, and food)

Click here to sign up!


About: The state of Tennessee boasts of a wide variety of environments and locations, from cities as large as Memphis to remote, sparsely populated areas of the Smokies. Each region of the state comprises different resources and abides by different legislation. These differences can drastically affect aspects of healthcare. One’s location can affect public health aspects as minor as sin taxes, or as large as water quality. Health-care facilities, public health strategies, and healthcare legislation all have geographical context. In particular, rural areas generally suffer from a lack of resources, access to healthcare, and absence of healthy options. Rural regions in TN are vast, and each face their own set of public health challenges. Some regions experience increased food insecurity, lack of transportation, low air quality, low doctor to patient ratios, and other pressing public health concerns. This VOLbreak immersion will explore the dynamic of location on access to healthcare resources and socioeconomic components of public health in the context of rural communities. By doing so, we hope to better understand how the imbalance of resources in rural areas has adverse health effects on residents of rural TN.

Trip Leaders: Joseph Paschall and Caroline Parker

Cost: $30 (includes t-shirt, transportation costs, food)

Click here to sign up!



Please feel free to contact Maria Martinez, VOLbreaks Coordinator at with any questions or concerns. We hope you will consider joining us for what we hope will be powerful and impactful experiences!

“This was an unforgettable experience! It helped reassure me that UT was a good fit. It now feels more like a home after the way serving together helped us develop friendships” – Participant