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Student Leaders

Group photo of STEP UP team

Become a student leader for the 2020-21 year!

Throughout the year, Step Up leaders work on developing new skills and building impactful service experiences for their peers. During 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.

Learn more from our virtual info session recording

Curious about this program? Check out the below recording to learn more about this program from three of our student leaders.

Apply by Tuesday, September 1!

Submit your application today! All applicants will be invited to sign up for an individual interview on a rolling basis. Once your application is completed you will receive a confirmation within 72 hours of applying that will include your next steps.

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.

Our programs include:

  • Alternative breaks: spend spring break or a portion of winter break immersed in service and learning
  • Get on the Bus trips: half-day and daylong projects in our region
  • Campus Kitchen trips: delivery shifts, diversion shifts in dining halls, dry meal packing events, and service trips focused on food insecurity 
  • Global trips to Peru, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic
  • Weekend trips: regional experiences focused on social topics

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 June or September.
  • Commit to a yearlong term as a student leader.
  • Attend weekly group meetings throughout the 2020-2021 academic year.
  • Commit to develop their leadership, reflection, and trip management skills. 
  • Commit to co-lead or lead VT Engage trips the academic year. 
  • Attend the two day retreat September 5-6.

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
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. 

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 2020: 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?

Step Up Executive Board

The student leaders serving on our executive board support fellow leaders, assist with more in-depth program planning, help plan meetings, and much more.
Headshot of Danielle Kassel standing in front of a brick building and some trees.
Danielle Kassel

Campus Kitchen Student Director

Headshot of Diana Harley standing in front of Hokie stone.
Diana Harley

Weeklong Program Assistant

Headshot of  Renad Bougis with trees and a rustic building in the background.
Renad Bougis

Global Program Assistant

Headshot of Molly Kwitny standing in front of green trees.
Molly Kwitny

Service Immersion Student Director

Headshot of Matthew Darrah standing in front of Hokie stone.
Matt Darrah

Weeklong Program Assistant

Headshot of Nick Kaloudis with trees and a rustic building the background.
Nick Kaloudis

Service Immersion Student Director

Headshot of Rachel Hall standing in front of Hokie stone.
Rachel Hall

Weekend Program Assistant


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