KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The University of Tennessee Athletics Department recently announced its VOLeaders Academy Class of 2020-21. For the first time, the program has expanded to include two cohorts that will participate simultaneously.
Thus, the sixth annual collection of VOLeaders comprises 41 student-athletes representing all of Tennessee's varsity sports. The year-long leadership curriculum begins annually starting with the Fall semester and concludes with an international cultural exchange trip in the summer.
The Class of 2019-20 had its trip—planned for the Philippines in June—postponed due to the coronavirus global health crisis. Previous cohorts traveled to Vietnam, Brazil, Ecuador and Rwanda.
One of the 2020-21 VOLeaders cohorts includes: Mikayla Bardwell (Women's Golf), Paxton Brooks (Football), K'Rojhn Calbert (Football), Jada Chambers (Women's Track & Field/CC), Brett Champlin (Men's Swimming & Diving), Quavaris Crouch (Football), Rasheeme Griffith (Men's Track & Field/CC), Lyndsey Huizenga (Women's Swimming & Diving), Josiah-Jordan James (Men's Basketball), Kailey Keeble (Volleyball), Bryce Lewis (Men's Golf), Reagan Long (Rowing), Nick McCann (Men's Swimming & Diving), Kiki Milloy (Softball), Jorel Ortega (Baseball), Mackenzie Ostrom (Soccer), Giana Pellizzon (Volleyball), Josh Raab (Men's Tennis), Jessie Rennie (Women's Basketball), Amy Thompson (Soccer), Katie Thronson (Women's Track & Field/CC).
The other 2020-21 VOLeaders cohort features: Samantha Bender (Softball), Abbey Burdette (Soccer), Kirby Connell (Baseball), Andrew Ference (Men's Track & Field/CC), Davonte Gaines (Men's Basketball), Eric Gray (Football), Michael Houlie (Men's Swimming & Diving), Tamari Key (Women's Basketball), Jackson Lowe (Football), Danielle Mahaffey (Volleyball), Rebeka Mertena (Women's Tennis), Charli Pogany (Soccer), Katherine Schildmeyer (Rowing), Kendall Shields (Women's Swimming & Diving), Yariel Soto (Men's Track & Field/CC), Jet Tickle (Men's Golf), Henry To'o To'o (Football), Hadley Walts (Women's Golf), Vanessa Watson (Women's Track & Field/CC), Emily Ann Wolfson (Women's Swimming & Diving).
This year's expansion of the VOLeaders Academy was made possible through the generous and servant hearts of 1980 Tennessee alums Donnie and Terry Smith from Rogers, Arkansas. The Smiths' passion and vision was to infuse a foundation of servant leadership in a greater percentage of Tennessee's student-athlete population. Their sincere and heartfelt leadership to make a difference in UT student-athletes will create life-changing opportunities for all that come through the VOLeaders Academy.
"We are thrilled to expand the impact of VOLeaders," Senior Associate Athletics Director & Assistant Provost Joe Scogin said. "Heading into our sixth cohort, we are now beginning to see the legacy that our VOLeader alumni are having on the university and around the world. We are thankful for all of our supporters that allow this great work to happen and are especially thankful for Donnie and Terry's commitment to servant leadership and vision for impacting an even greater number of Volunteer student-athletes."
ABOUT THE VOLEADERS ACADEMY
The University of Tennessee announced the inception of its VOLeaders Academy in July of 2015. The first-of-its-kind program is a dynamic partnership between the Division of Student Life, the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences and the Athletics Department.
By using their platform in sport, student-athletes admitted into the VOLeaders Academy learn how to positively impact their team, campus and local and global communities. The program aims to inspire student-athletes to find ways to use their passion of sport and their influence to enact positive change that transcends their athletic success.
Since 1968, the Torchbearer—UT's official symbol—has borne silent witness to the university's Volunteer Creed: "One that beareth a torch shadoweth oneself to give light to others." The VOLeaders Academy takes that creed in action by engaging its participants in the understanding and development of servant leadership.
Participants are enrolled in two three-credit-hour courses in the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences. A Leadership in Sport course provides students with an understanding of their individual leadership styles, the practice of leadership in collegiate athletics and equips them with the foundational skills necessary to lead their teams, campus and communities, while a Sport for Social Change course teaches leadership principles, professionalism, critical thinking, and cross-cultural communication skills through sport-based service.
The final component of the VOLeaders Academy is a 10-day international exchange providing applied leadership and service opportunities focused on community development and social change through sport. International destinations vary each year.
For more information on The VOLeaders Academy, visit the website HERE.