Baylor Accounting Partners with University High School to Serve the Waco Community through the VITA ProgramFeb. 14, 2019
By Caroline Mitchell
Baylor University accounting students are using their knowledge and taking the classroom to the community this semester in an effort to serve Waco through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program. Accounting students enrolled in the first level income tax course at the Hankamer School of Business are teaming up with high-school students enrolled in the Ron E. Smith Academy of Business and Finance at University High School to offer free tax help to those in the community who need assistance in preparing tax returns.
VITA primarily serves taxpayers who generally make $54,000 or less, have disabilities or speak limited English. Angelo Ochoa, director of the VITA program at University High school, says the program has grown exponentially over the years and says students are on track to submit over 2,000 returns this year.
“The success of the program speaks for itself,” Ochoa said. “Especially on days like today. People have been lined up since 1:30 waiting for us to open the doors at 4:30.”
University High School has been involved with serving VITA for 15 years and Baylor is rejoining after a short hiatus. This year there are 27 Baylor students and four professors involved with VITA. Bill Thomas, accounting and business law professor in the Hankamer School of Business, joined the volunteer effort this semester and said he is looking forward to serving our community for years to come.
“I am hopefully doing this into my retirement,” he said. “I am going to use it as a means of volunteering and using my skills even after I retire.”
The partnership between University High School students and Baylor students creates a unique opportunity to impact not only the community but each other. Some of the University High School students have been a part of this program for four years and Ochoa said he has enjoyed watching his high school students answer questions and guide Baylor students who are new to the material in tax returns. He also is thankful for the Baylor students because he said they are able to mentor the high school students in a way that will give them a vision of where they can be in a few years.
If the Baylor accounting students volunteer for up to 10 contact hours with people preparing returns, they will receive partial course credit. Thomas is excited for the students to have the opportunity to receive real-world experience that they wouldn’t necessarily receive otherwise.
“Our students are very service oriented,” Thomas said. “They aspire to be of service to society and I have found them to be very enthusiastic about this program.
The VITA program services are available from 5 to 8 p.m. at University High School, located at 3201 S. New Road, on Tuesdays and Thursdays every week from January to mid-April.