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Student Leaders

Group photo of STEP UP team

Leading trips, exploring social topics you care about

Our student leadership teams coordinate 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 community-driven service trips. Leaders are trained to develop engaging, learning-centered reflections for each trip.

Throughout each service experience and group meetings, they explore their passion for service and the social topics they care about. Our leaders coordinate a range of service programs and have opportunities to take on increasing responsibility as they progress through the program.

COVID-19 restrictions may impact leading trips for the year.

Our programs include:

Please review application questions, expectations, and each cohort's curriculum topics for more information.

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

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

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 student 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 a new leader orientation in April.
  • Attend the two-day retreat each September.
  • Commit to a yearlong term as a student leader.
  • Attend weekly group meetings throughout the 2021-2022 academic year.
  • Commit to develop their leadership, reflection, and trip management skills. 
  • Commit to co-lead or lead VT Engage trips the academic year. 

Engaging, learning-centered curriculum

Leaders attend 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 topics.

Each semester, our leaders will focus on a different set of topics. The curriculum is designed to build knowledge and expertise as students progress in the program, with the goal of preparing students to become mentors for new leaders.

Introduction to service learning
Students in year one explore either local programs or alternative breaks. 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. 

Global service learning
Students will focus on the complexities that service in a global setting brings, and discuss the connections between local and global issues. Leaders will continue to develop and refine skills in reflection facilitation and critical thinking. Second year students will also learn about the impacts of global racism, colorism, and settler colonization with particular focuses on the US, South America, and the Caribbean. 

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

Please be prepared to respond to the following questions on the STEP UP application.

  • Why are you interested in becoming a VT Engage student leader?
  • Please briefly describe your past service and/or leadership experiences. What was one thing you learned from those experiences?
  • How would you define "social justice"? What does social justice look like to you?
  • Tell us about a social or environmental topic that you care about. Why is this issue important to you?

Student leaders are expected to lead VT Engage service-learning trips. These trips are co-lead or single-led. As leaders progress through the program and develop more skills, they will have opportunities to take on increasing responsibility. As a first year leader, you'll be able to:

  • Fall semester: co-lead Get on the Bus trips (half- and day-long local trips), lead Campus Kitchen trips, as well as shadow returning leaders on regional weekend trips.
  • Spring semester: same opportunities as fall semester, plus opportunities to lead half- and day-long trips and co-lead weekend trips.
  • *Optional* Summer 2021: Attend a national training, Alternative Break Citizenship School (ABCs) through BreakAway. More information on various locations, times, and scholarships will be announced at a later date.

Students who progress into a second year of the program and beyond will be able to get involved with global service immersion trips, co-lead an alternative break, or hold a position on the executive board.

Please indicate which types of VT Engage programs you would be interested in being trained to lead. Check all that apply.

  • Get on the Bus trips (half- and day-long local service projects)
  • Campus Kitchen at Virginia Tech (semester-long commitments. Opportunities include leading delivery shifts, diversion shifts in dining halls, leading dry meal packing event, and community partner service trips.)
  • Fall Break Trips (Trips will occur during Fall Break and part of the Thanksgiving Break. These will be regional trips. First Year student leaders will be considered Alternative Break Assistants (ABA), and assist with 1-2 program activities. ABA's will be responsible for 100% of the trip fee.)
  • Alternative Spring Break or Winter Alternative Break (first year leaders will be considered Alternative Break Assistants (ABA) and help with some of the pre-trip planning. There will be 1 ABA selected for each weeklong trip, ABA's will be eligible for a 50% scholarship as available, but will be responsible for the other 50% of the trip.)

Please expand on the choices you selected above. Why did you choose the trip(s) you did?


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 topics, 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 students Analise Adams and Emily Neer. All are welcome to download and use these guides, but please credit VT Engage if you do so.

Requests for accommodations & other questions

If you are an individual with a disability and desire an accommodation, welcome! Please contact Jes Davis at or 540-231-6947 during regular business hours to discuss your request(s) to participate in any part of Step Up.

All other questions about the Step Up leadership team may be directed to Jes. We look forward to having you participate in our programs!