STEP UP team members

STEP UP (Students Together Engaging in & Practicing Ut Prosim)

Our student leadership team coordinates all VT Engage service trips. Our leaders are passionate about service, social justice, and inspiring change. They work closely with peers, VT Engage, and community partners to coordinate service trips based on community-identified need. Leaders are trained to develop engaging, learning-centered reflections for each trip.

Throughout each service experience and weekly STEP UP meetings, they explore their passion for service and the issues they care about. STEP UP leaders coordinate a range of service programs and have opportunities to take on increasing responsibility as they progress through STEP UP.

Our programs include:

  • Get on the Bus trips: half- and day-long projects 
  • Campus Kitchen trips: delivery shifts, diversion shifts in dining halls, cooking shifts, and service trips focused on food insecurity 
  • Recurring trips: semester-long service trip commitments to the same community partner, typically on a weekly basis 
  • Weekend trips: regional trips focused on a single issue or set of issues 
  • Weeklong domestic trips, including alternative spring breaks 
  • International trips to Peru and the Dominican Republic

Why choose STEP UP?

Our leaders have the unique opportunity to develop their leadership capacities through the lenses of service and social justice. Through hands-on experiences and weekly meetings, STEP UP leaders become more knowledgeable about best practices in community engagement and service-learning.

Our leaders develop their reflection facilitation skills and learn how to engage in meaningful discussion about complex social issues. STEP UP leaders are trained to cultivate sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships with communities and teach trip participants to do the same.

Our leaders are encouraged to venture out of their comfort zone as they learn with and from a team of thoughtful, fun peer leaders. Our goal is to help STEP UP leaders recognize their own capacity to be change agents, then equip them with the knowledge and tools to be engaged citizens both during college and throughout their lives.


Leaders are expected to:

  • Attend weekly meetings throughout the academic year. 
  • Deepen their understanding of service, and local and global issues. 
  • Develop their leadership, reflection, and trip management skills. 
  • Commit to co-leading or leading VT Engage trips. 
  • Attend a two-day retreat (August 25-26, 2017).

Engaging, learning-centered curriculum

STEP UP leaders attend weekly meetings focused on developing new skills and building impactful service experiences for their peers. Throughout the program, leaders will be immersed in learning more about best practices for community engagement and trip coordination while taking a critical look at service and social issues.

Our students will have the opportunity to develop as leaders, as well as build their communication and conflict management skills, become trained in facilitating reflection, and learn more about local and global social issues. Additionally, students may choose to earn one credit hour of elective credit each semester they participate in the program.

Each semester, STEP UP leaders will focus on a different set of topics related to service learning and community engagement. The curriculum is designed to build knowledge and expertise as students progress in the program, with goal of developing leaders into mentors for new classes of STEP UP. 

Fall: Introduction to service learning
During weekly meetings, new leaders will learn about VT Engage's community engagement philosophy, criticisms of volunteerism, trip logistics, and risk management. They will build skills in leading reflection and developing group dynamics on service trips. Opportunities available to new students include:

Spring: Deep dive into issues
This semester will continue to build reflection skills and critically discuss service learning. During weekly meetings, leaders will engage in conversations centered around specific local and global topics including food insecurity, literacy and education access, refugees and immigration, poverty, incarceration, gender and sexuality, and mental health.

  • In addition to the same opportunities from fall semester, leaders may lead half-and day-long trips and co-lead weekend trips.

Fall: International service learning
Students will focus on the complexities that service in a global setting brings, and discuss the connections between local and global issues. In addition to opportunities available to year one leaders, students will also have the opportunity to co-lead domestic spring break trips.

  • After completing this semester, leaders will be eligible to lead VT Engage international immersion trips to the Dominican Republic and Peru (preference will be given to students who have participated in an international trip with VT Engage previously.)

Spring: Deep dive into issues part II
Leaders will continue to develop and refine skills in reflection facilitation and critical thinking. Weekly meetings will continue to examine local and global issues.

Mentorship & Leadership
Students in year three of STEP UP will continue to develop their leadership competencies while mentoring new leaders in the program. They will partner with VT Engage team members to plan weekly meetings and co-facilitate the meetings.

Throughout the year, they will be paired with new leaders on half-and full-day and weekend trips to assist new leaders with reflection facilitation and trip management.


Our leaders are trained to put together thoughtful, quality service experiences for students. One aspect of those experiences includes reflection activities. Reflection allows groups and individuals to process service, social issues, and the questions these experiences bring up. Leaders guide participants through this process using a variety of methods.

Below are reflection guides put together by former SERVE student Analise Adams and current SERVE student Emily Neer. All are welcome to download and use these guides, please credit VT Engage if you do so.

2016-17 Student leaders

Abby England, SERVE class 2016-17

Amy Chen
Sophomore biochemistry major from Roanoke, Virginia

Allison Monroe, SERVE class 2016-17

Breanna LaTondre
Senior architecture major from Ellicott City, Maryland

Aria Lee, SERVE class 2016-17

Brooke Souders
Sophomore human development major from Winchester, Virginia

Ashlyn Kefauver, SERVE class 2016-17

Carl (Junwei) Yao
Sophomore computer science major from Fuzhou, China

Casey Gaipa

Casey Gaipa
Sophomore architecture major from Southbury, Connecticut

Abby England, SERVE class 2016-17

Chris Johnson
Junior civil engineering major from Greenville, New York

Allison Monroe, SERVE class 2016-17

Danielle Lewis
Senior animal & poultry sciences major from Richmond, Virginia

Aria Lee, SERVE class 2016-17

Delaney Beattie
Sophomore human development major from Winchester, Virginia

Casey Gaipa

Franklin Edwards
Junior neuroscience & psychology major from Radford, Virginia

Abby England, SERVE class 2016-17

Kaley Holloway
Junior civil engineering major from Greenville, New York

Allison Monroe, SERVE class 2016-17

Kyndal Stakes
Senior animal & poultry sciences major from Richmond, Virginia

Aria Lee, SERVE class 2016-17

Lexy Keeler
Sophomore public relations & international relations major

Casey Gaipa

Linda Beckett
Senior dairy science & animal & poutry science double major from Frederick, Maryland

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Abby England, SERVE class 2016-17

Lisa To
Senior biological sciences & neuroscience double major from Fairfax, Virginia

Allison Monroe, SERVE class 2016-17

Martha Legg
Junior civil engineering major from King George, Virginia

Aria Lee, SERVE class 2016-17

Megan Mickey
Junior architecture major from Kinnelon, New Jersey

Casey Gaipa

Meghan Garrity
Junior agriculture, leadership, & community education from Newport News, Virginia

Abby England, SERVE class 2016-17

Michele LeBlanc
Senior geography major from Fairfax, Virginia

Allison Monroe, SERVE class 2016-17

Monica Fikes
Senior agricultural, leadership, & community education major from Alexandria, Virginia

Aria Lee, SERVE class 2016-17

Sam Capaldo
Senior dairy science major from Virginia Beach, Virginia

Casey Gaipa

Sammy DiBiaso
Senior public relations & religion and culture double major from Chesapeake, Virginia

Abby England, SERVE class 2016-17

Shaifali Prajapati
Junior Water: resources, policy, & management major from Yorktown, Virginia