When the United Way of Greater Toledo provides free tax preparation services to area families and individuals beginning in January, among the volunteer corps again will be several students from The University of Toledo College of Business and Innovation.“This is our fourth year of partnering with the United Way Free Tax Preparation Program. Every year it continues to grow both in awareness and with student involvement,” noted Laura Williams, UT senior lecturer in management, who coordinates the tax preparation program on campus. “We live our mission statement through this program’s outreach into the community, the opportunity it creates for students for internships and hands-on experience, and engaging nonprofit community partners.
“I designed the 3030 Management course to be a life lab where students just don’t read the book, they live the book,” she added. “United Way is a community partner within the course. Students are held accountable to high academic standards through the course and high community standards through the melding of the two. I train students for future managerial careers through class, and the United Way trains the students for the tax program. The students love the hands-on experience and seem to always remember this course.”
Students value learning a new skill and the chance to help others.“Nine students within the class and currently more than 20 additional students have shown interest in the program by attending the Tax Program Orientation that the students were responsible for designing, promoting and implementing. Students decide if they want to participate in the program, those in the class as well as those recruited,” Williams said.
Toni Shoola, United Way program manager of the Free Tax Preparation Program, said, “Countless volunteers have conveyed to me the personal satisfaction they feel in making such a huge impact in the community. In addition, volunteers who are involved with the Free Tax Preparation Program have been able to develop an additional skill set that will serve them for the rest of their lives.”
“The College of Business and Innovation is known for its tremendous connectivity to the business community,” Williams said, “but we are also proud to work with key nonprofit organizations such as the United Way with this program, which often means cash in the pockets of area residents.”
“I volunteer for this program because I am able to learn how to do my taxes and become a certified IRS tax preparer, which helps build my resumé. My major is accounting, and I know what I learn from this program can only help me become a better accountant,” said Derek Martindale, one of the UT business students who will be providing the service this year. “At the same time, I am able to help out families around northwest Ohio and know these tax returns are giving them free money.”
“This is a great opportunity for students within the College of Business and Innovation, particularly freshmen and sophomores, to benefit themselves immensely,” Martindale said. “United Way provides a great chance for the younger students to get a step forward ahead of their class, and they only ask for 12 hours a week to obtain internship credit.”
Last year, 84 volunteers through the community helped more than 3,400 taxpayers, bringing more than $4.5 million back to the northwest Ohio community.
Other students on campus interested in being a volunteer should contact Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.