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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 fall 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.

Our goal is for participants to come away with the awareness of the dynamic nature of East Tennessee, and recognize what is happening now to shape its future. We desire for VOLbreaks Immersions not to be the only form of service a student becomes involved in, but rather as a launching pad for continuing future service-learning opportunities, such as traditional VOLbreaks in the future. The multitude of activities the participants will be involved in will develop their leadership skills, teamwork proficiency, personal development, and self-growth that will carry over into whatever field their future entails. 

Local Weekend Immersion Sign-Ups


Weekend 1 – October 9-11

About: The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the pre-existing discrimination within our healthcare policies and systems that is further compounded by the huge wealth inequality. This appears in many ways, from medical debt to cultural discrepancies. Our trip will explore how the lack of accessibility to healthcare is exacerbated by underlying economic inequalities.

Trip Leaders: Christina Cho and Luke Dudrick

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

Sign Up Here

About: There are many issues impacting how children receive an education which directly affects their development into adulthood. One of the biggest challenges facing many kids is racism. According to the UNCF, “Students of color are often concentrated in schools with fewer resources. Schools with 90 percent or more students of color spend $733 less per student per year than schools with 90 percent or more white students.” Through this trip we will learn more about educational inequality among other issues plaguing our education system. Participants will learn first hand about issues that affect children’s development and their lack of access to a good education. We will also have an open dialogue about the current education system and then examine possible solutions. Through this learning experience we want to bond with other peers through sharing our different educational experiences and perspectives, and we want to help participants grow a better knowledge of the current educational injustices that we hope to one day overcome.

Trip Leaders: Rachael White and Saylar Epperson

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

Sign Up Here

About: While East Tennessee has worked to promote sustainability and conservation, active citizens need to help in the fight to protect our environment, conserve our resources, reduce our impact on natural systems, and leave future generations with plentiful resources. On this trip, students will have the opportunity to serve with members of our local community as they work to combat the negative effects of unsustainable living in the Appalachian region. Participants on this trip will mainly work outdoors to help promote waste eradication, sustainable agriculture, and conservation of natural wildlife while maintaining proper social distancing and mask-wearing protocol. We hope participants will learn how our everyday actions affect the environment, how to combat these things, and how to live more sustainably.

Trip Leaders: Olivia Crawley and Alec Apostoaei

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

Sign Up Here

Weekend 2 – October 16-18

About: On this trip, we will learn how community leaders and organizations are working to achieve equal representation in Tennessee politics. We will meet with candidates and representatives in order to better understand the barriers to political participation that many women face. We will analyze non-traditional forms of community leadership and we will work with local organizations addressing policy issues that women face daily. Through this alternative break, we will become better advocates for women in Tennessee and our community.

Trip Leaders: Lexie Judd and Katherine Fulcher

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

Sign Up Here

About: The United States, with over 2 million people incarcerated, maintains the highest incarceration rates in the world. The U.S. prison system and police force have grown into enormous and expensive institutions that continue to disproportionately affect Black and brown communities. This trip will focus on criminal justice and mass incarceration in East Tennessee through online service learning. We will examine the history of incarceration and policing in the United States, the consequences of the modern Prison Industrial Complex, and what communities are doing to make change. We will analyze how race, gender identity, citizenship status, and more interact with the forces of incarceration to target and oppress communities. We will then volunteer with organizations that support historically underserved communities, people currently incarcerated, or people formerly incarcerated and learn how to make these efforts a priority in our daily lives.

Trip Leaders: Madison Woods and Taylor Dempsey

Cost: $10 (includes t-shirt)

Sign Up Here

About: This trip will focus on educating participants on systemic issues African American women have faced. We will hone in on key ideas such as colorism, tokenism, and allyship. We will be serving alongside various local organizations whose mission aligns with combating the daily injustices we see towards African American women. Through servant leadership, we hope our participants take away from this experience a better understanding of the inequitable treatment African American women have received. We aim to bring awareness to the multitude of social inequalities African American women have endured while creating an educational experience.

Trip Leaders: Dariana Martre and Cate Williams

Cost: $10 (includes t-shirt)

Sign Up Here

Weekend 3 – November 13-15

About: The closing of Lakeshore Mental Health Institute in 2012 has been cited as one of the contributing factors to a 50% increase in Knoxville’s homeless population within the last decade. This trip will be focused on how issues such as resource accessibility and income inequality impact persons experiencing homelessness within the Knoxville community. We will explore the social determinants involved in a person experiencing homelessness that are unique to Knoxville—which may include mental illness and substance use disorders—and how these factors play into the broader stigmatization and criminalization of homelessness in our community and across the United States. Through direct service and education provided by our community partners, we hope to learn how the concept of allyship pertains to those who experience food insecurity, poverty, and/or homelessness.

Trip Leaders: AJ Thayer and Joseph Paschall

Cost: $30 (includes t-shirt)

Sign Up Here

About: This weekend immersion will be a comprehensive educational opportunity centering the immigrant community in Knoxville, Tennessee. This trip seeks to educate participants on community organizations that are promoting resources for the immigrant community. It will educate participants to understand how migrants who have been relocated are integrated into the community through access to social, financial, educational resources and opportunities.

Trip Leaders: Maria Urias and Luis Mata

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

Sign Up Here

Please feel free to contact Maria Martinez, VOLbreaks Coordinator at maria@utk.edu 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