Students Complete VITA Accounting Course, Discuss Community Impact in Final Presentations Thursday, April 23, 2020
“The best part of VITA was definitely helping people. This experience improved both my soft and technical skills and helped me develop a greater sense of purpose and community."
Point Park University students in the Accounting 295: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance course recently gave presentations through a Zoom conference call to faculty members Cheryl Clark, MBA, CPA; Margaret Gilfillan MBA, CPA; Jayne Olshanski, MBA, CPA and Heather Starr Fiedler, Ph.D., about their experiences as VITA volunteers in the Pittsburgh community.
"The presentations were really so positive and well done. These students were genuine in their desire to provide service and it was heartwarming to hear their optimism. They did a very professional job. I was really quite impressed," said Gilfillan, professor of accounting and chair of the Department of Accounting, Applied Computer Science (IT) and Economics and Finance in the Rowland School of Business.
Students John Bedortha, Rachel Cahoon, Doreen Clark and Dominic Hodil were VITA volunteers at the YWCA Downtown Pittsburgh and Evgeniia Belajac and Malaki Davis served at the Allegheny County Department of Human Services.
Through the course, the students earned valuable experience in tax return preparation, learning firsthand about IRS rules and regulations and building their resumes, while helping low-income families file their annual income tax returns.
"The students did an absolutely wonderful job and gave fabulous presentations. They were so well spoken and I loved hearing about the impact the work had on them. The VITA course really was a perfect course for our first officially designated community-engaged undergraduate course. They made us proud!" added Starr-Fiedler, chair of the Department of Community Engagement and professor of multimedia.
“A very important part of the VITA volunteering process was the soft skills I gained,” Bedortha said. “I enjoyed being there for the people who needed our help.”
“The best part of VITA was definitely helping people. This experience improved both my soft and technical skills and helped me develop a greater sense of purpose and community,” Davis said.
“The students went above and beyond and truly became a force of good in the community,” said Olshasnki, assistant professor of accounting.
“All the clients I served were kind and thankful. My very first taxpayer was highly satisfied with his refund. I had many taxpayers who were filing their tax return for the first time and they were very confused about the procedure. It was rewarding to clarify their confusions and map out the right direction for them to take in the tax return process,” Belajac explained. “Everything I gained through this VITA course will help me in my career.”
Belajac, a native of Russia, also assisted with international and refugee tax preparation.
“It was very rewarding to help those taxpayers with their tax returns. The experience really resonated with me since I was in their situation when I moved to America,” she said.
Belajac added: “The VITA program cannot function without reliable and committed volunteer tax preparers. As a Point Park student, I encourage my fellow students to give it a try and participate in VITA. Point Park wins by proving opportunities for students to develop their commitment to community engagement and being a valuable citizen. Students win by developing skills and work habits that will not only make them attractive as future employees, but give them those skills and the work ethic that will facilitate their transition into the workplace.”