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VOLeaders Organize Student-Athletes for UT Sexual Assault Awareness

VOLeaders Hike the Hill 1

On Friday afternoon, the University of Tennessee (UT) campus community kicked off Sexual Assault Awareness month with their second annual Hike the Hill in Heels (H3UTK) event.

More than 200 students gathered at the Europa Fountain and walked the famous UT “Hill” in high heels to raise awareness about sexual assault, consent, safety, and violence prevention on campus.

Our Center was very proud to be present at the event and walk with roughly 100 student-athletes who collaborated to show they care about the UT community as much as any other group. We were even more proud of the work of the VOLeaders Academy, 13 student-athletes representing 10 sports teams, for playing a large part in organizing their teammates and getting them out to demonstrate their support.

“We’re not doing this to get media attention for ourselves, but really to support the cause,” said Juan Carlos Serrano, a VOLeader and member of the men’s golf team. “This is not something we’re doing as the Athletics Department, but as individual members of the university community.”

Through VOLeaders and his role with the Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), Juan Carlos co-lead the effort with Raina Hembry from volleyball. Before leaving for the walk, the Thornton Center was packed with student-athletes as Juan Carlos and Raina addressed them. Members of all the different sports teams walked together to the fountain, where they met with the rest of the campus community.

During the spring semester, Drs. Hillyer and Huffman, co-directors of the CSPS, have been teaching a sports-based leadership class with the VOLeaders focusing on how they can use their platforms as student-athletes to create positive social impact. Joining with the rest of the university for a big event like the Hike the Hill in Heels and mobilizing teammates was a great way to apply the leadership skills they’ve learned to rally their teams and make a difference on campus.

“We’re so proud of the student-athletes that participated in the H3UTK event. And we’re especially proud of the VOLeaders who took a leadership role in organizing it. It’s everything we’ve talked about in class – finding a way to stand up for something that you believe in and using your time and talents to make the world a better, safer, and more inclusive place. And that’s exactly what they did.”

The Center for Health Education and Wellness will host other events all month for sexual assault awareness. To find out more, visit its website.

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