Vols give back, locally and abroad.

This semester four alternative spring break trips, including an international trip, will facilitate community service during time away from school.

Cheyenne Perry, a junior majoring in public relations and minoring in business, will serve as one of the student trip leaders. According to the Alternative Break website, student trip leaders coordinate almost all aspects of the project, including the theme, location, agenda and fundraisers.

"Trip leaders for the international trip went through training during the fall semester, and all their participants were chosen in the fall because the participants needed time to get everything together such as passports or plane ticket arrangements," Perry said. "International participants are the only ones whose trip was revealed early, as participants usually are told where they are going shortly after the selection process."

Each alternative trip, offered both in fall and spring, focuses on a specific theme. Focus areas for the upcoming trips are environmental conservation, underrepresented homeless populations and children living in areas with poverty and high crime. The international trip, traveling to Trelawny, Jamaica, focuses on sustainable farming and youth education.

Margaret Smith, a senior majoring in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology, is the student coordinator for the Alternative Break Program, a new position within the Center for Leadership & Service.

"Since we did more trips this year than ever before – five fall, three domestic spring and one international spring – we thought it might be good to have another person dedicated solely to the program this year," Smith said. "I just help the graduate assistant, Katherine Browna, with trip leader training, fundraising, recruitment and applications."

Smith, a two-time volunteer and former trip leader, found belonging on campus among other service-minded students.

"My first trip was important because I had transferred to UT, and it really made me feel at home on campus and introduced me to some amazing student leaders," Smith said. "It gave me an idea of what kind of leader I could be if I kept being involved with the Center for Leadership & Service."

As a result of this initial trip, Smith's understanding of charity transformed.

"Later trips completely changed how I thought about service," Smith said. "Break trips are all about collaborating with communities to improve circumstances instead of trying to 'fix' problems.

"Ultimately my trip experiences have directly affected how I spend my free time in Knoxville and what I want to do with the rest of my life."

Collaboration has also kept Perry involved with CLS.

"Our community and even the international community are all interconnected," Perry said. "Doing service with people helps you feel like you did something meaningful. That's something that the Center for Leadership & Service provides, which is meaningful service. They really try to make service more impactful for participants, and they succeed."

For those interested in applying for this year's Alternative Spring Break, applications can be found online at leadershipandservice.utk.edu. Applications will be open and available until Jan. 20.