Home building project, spring break 2016

Connecting with community, learning about complex issues

Service immersion trips are designed to connect students with community members. These hands-on experiences prompt learning about community issues, encourage self-understanding, and inspire commitment to future action. The trips emphasize communication with community partners in order for students to connect more deeply to the issue areas they were serving.

All the trips offer an outside-of-the-classroom platform for discussion about community issues such as homelessness and poverty in urban areas, public health in rural areas, refugee resettlement, and rural building and town restoration. In addition to having meaningful discussion, students immerse themselves in new environments.

Interested in trips outside the U.S.? We lead trips to the Dominican Republic and to Peru.

For information on our upcoming weekend and spring break trips, sign up for our eNewsletter to get all the latest VT Engage news first.

Weekend trips 

On our weekend immersion trips, you’ll be a part of a service immersion experience where you’ll meet new people, serve a cause that matters to you, and learn more about social justice issues. You’ll leave Friday night, and return Sunday afternoon with new friends, questions, and ideas. 

Our weekend trips are focused on specific issues. You’ll learn about the community partner(s) and location of the trip at the required pre-trip meeting. Trips are open to all students, and cost $30 (includes food, lodging, and transportation.) Need-based financial assistance is available for these trips. 

October 12 - 15 (Fall Break): Environmentalism 
From Central Alabama to the Canadian Province of Newfoundland, the Appalachian Mountains are a vast system of mountains in our very own backyard. Participants will learn about threats posed by invasive species, the ongoing history of the ecosystem, and the importance of our role in conservation. Participants will get a unique understanding of conservation efforts and their role in preservation of local environments on the Appalachian Trail and Smoky Mountains. 

October 20 - 22: Affordable Housing | Sign up by Oct. 17
In Virginia, those workers who earn minimum wage ($7.25/hour) would have to work 67 hours a week to afford a modest one bedroom rental home. The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that in 2015, every state including the District of Columbia had a housing shortage for extremely low income renters. This presents real barriers for low income families looking for housing. Participants will gain a better understanding of the barriers low income families face while serving with organizations developing find housing for families who have been displaced.

October 27 - 29:  Poverty | Sign up by Oct. 23
In 2015, nearly 43.1 million people lived in poverty in the United States (definition of poverty or poverty “line” here?) Of those people living in poverty, children (19.7%) and seniors (13.7%) were the most likely to be affected. Along with poverty, issues of food security, housing, and health can further push away economic stability. Participants will examine the multiple intersections of how poverty effects an individual, as well as engage in discussions to better understand how policies and root causes affect poverty.

November 3 - 5: Education Access | Sign up by Oct. 30 
On average in the United States, 1.3 million high school students will not graduate on time. Nevada, New Mexico, Louisiana, Georgia, and South Carolina have some of the nation’s lowest graduation rates. In today’s workforce, nearly 85% of current jobs or 90% of new jobs will require some more college or post-secondary education training. Participants will gain an understanding of some of the barriers to education while serving alongside community organizations focused on access to quality education and after school programming.

November 3 - 5: Environmental Sustainability | Sign up by Oct. 30
The average college student produces 640 pounds of solid waste each year, including 500 disposable cups and 320 pounds of paper. One recycled bottle saves enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for four hours. The energy used to make a recycled bottle causes 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution than making a new bottle does. On this trip focused on environmental sustainability, participants will better understand their role building a more sustainable community and the ways community organizations are addressing these issues.

November 10 - 12: Refugee Rights & Resettlement | Sign up by Nov. 6
In 2016, approximately 84,995 refugees were admitted into the U.S. Refugee is a status within the U.S. government that is granted to individuals who are of special humanitarian concern to the U.S. The highest number of refugees came from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Other countries that had a high portion of refugees coming to the U.S. included Syria, Myanmar, Iraq, and Somalia. Participants on this weekend break will gain a better understanding of terms and policies in the U.S. surrounding refugees. Participants learn about how community organizations support individuals and families experiencing the resettlement process.

November 10 - 12: Women’s Rights | Sign up by Nov. 6
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, in 2015, female full-time, year-round workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. However, women are nearly half of the total workforce; they are the sole or co-breadwinner in half of American families with children; and, on average, they receive more college and graduate degrees. While economic inequity is not the only barrier for women, it creates challenges in many different life circumstances. Participants will explore and gain a better understanding of some of these barriers. Participants will serve alongside organizations focused on economic advancement and empowerment, health and safety, racial justice, and civil rights.

December 1 - 3: Food Security | Sign up by Nov. 27
According to Feeding America, nearly 42 million Americans, including 13 million children, struggle with hunger. This equates to about 13% of households experiencing food insecurity. There are 12 states that have a statistically significant higher household food insecurity rates ranging from Mississippi at 20.8% to Tennessee at 15.1%. Participants will explore barriers to food security while serving alongside community organizations focused on emergency food for individuals and families.

Spring break trips

VT Engage develops alternative break trips that run over spring break with our student leaders. These trips are opportunities for students to immerse themselves in a new place, spend the week engaged in service projects, broaden their horizons as they learned about social and environmental issues impacting our region, and make connections with fellow Hokies and community members.

Trip locations and trip costs vary based on location and year. All undergraduate and graduate students are welcome on trips, and a limited amount of need-based financial assistance is available.

Information on our 2018 spring break trips will be posted in October!