Jesse Slack, a third year accounting major at SIUC, is an avid student volunteer here on campus. From volunteering at the Dayempur Farm in Anna, helping frame artwork for the Annual Art Auction hosted by For Kids’ Sake, tutoring in the College of Business tutoring center, assembling food packages for children at Gum Drops in Carterville, to participating in Power Hour at the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale, Jesse proves to be exemplary student and community member. But there is another volunteer program in which Jesse is involved that not only helps the community, like the programs above, but heavily relates to her major.
Jesse also volunteers with VITA, or the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which she explains is a “free program where low income individuals within the community can have their taxes prepared by IRS-certified volunteers through electronic filing.” For a student like Jesse, this program is perfect, as it not only provides her with a real life work experience related to her field, but allows her to continue to give back to our Southern Illinois community. Jesse was able to give some insight on the program in general and her experience with VITA
Q: How did you get involved?
A: Participation in the VITA program is highly encouraged in the College of Business and through the College of Business RSOs. I was presented with the information about VITA in multiple classes and at the meetings I attend for the Beta Alpha Psi, an RSO for accounting and finance majors. While it is not a requirement for accounting majors, members of Beta Alpha Psi must volunteer for at least one session of VITA
Q: As a student, how does volunteering with a program like this impact you?
A: I feel that volunteering in the program helped me to gain some real-world experience, especially since I plan to go into the tax practice after graduation. For my future endeavors I will already have some basic experience working with clients and a more cohesive learning experience compared to those who only worked within the classroom.
Q: How do you feel it impacts the community?
A: I feel that this program positively impacts the community because it provides an opportunity for people to get their taxes done when they might be in a situation where they could not file otherwise.
Q: Do students who volunteer with this program feel further connected to the community afterwards?
A: I think that the VITA volunteers definitely feel a sense of accomplishment afterwards because they are able to utilize what they are learning in their classes to help the community. This program does bring us closer to the community because many of the people who come in for the service are also eager to learn. We are able to help them understand what the different components of the tax forms mean.
Q: Would you recommend that other students in your major participate in the program and why?
A: I would definitely recommend other students to participate in the program. It’s a great way to solidify the concepts you are learning in the classroom, gain real-world experience, and help the community.
Q: Can you recall a particularly positive experience you’ve had helping a community member through VITA?
A: I can’t recall a specific experience with any one community member that was more rewarding than another. Each return that I prepared was its own positive experience in and of itself. Showing people the amount they are expected to get back is the best part.
Q: Do you have any advice for students thinking about volunteering with VITA?
A: Thinking about doing taxes for other people can be scary but don’t let that discourage you from volunteering! All volunteers have to complete a training session where you will learn what you need to know to participate and there are always other students and faculty members there to help you through the process. There are also different volunteer positions that you can do if you aren’t comfortable preparing.
Jesse ends the interview explaining that due to the issues with COVID-19 this year’s VITA program has, unfortunately, been cut short, but she strongly encourages anyone who is interested to volunteer next spring.
To volunteer, email email@example.com with any questions or concerns you may have.