April 15, 2024

Southern Adventist University Students Serve through Tax Assistance

Initiative helps students to gain experience in real-world scenarios, a participant says.

Alexis Dewey, Southern Adventist University, and Adventist Review
Chidi Onyeije, junior accounting major, prepares tax documents as part of the VITA program at Southern Adventist University. [Photo: Elias Zabala]

This tax season marks the 11th year students at Southern Adventist University in the United States have volunteered to complete tax returns for low-income and elderly community members in Collegedale, Tennessee, and the surrounding area. 

Each year, School of Business professor Mark Hyder teaches students how to file tax returns in an accelerated course. “When I first came to campus, I thought this could be a good option for service-learning and internship credits,” said Hyder, who introduced the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in 2014.

Participating students take the class and an exam during the first three weeks of the winter semester in January, and they become certified by the IRS to file tax returns. The program is geared toward helping people in the community who cannot afford to pay for tax services.

Senior business administration major Colin Glenn, who is volunteering for a second year, says the program is an excellent opportunity to gain both knowledge and experience.

“Preparing to work in the business field made me realize that everyone earning income — both individuals and businesses — are required to pay taxes whether they know how to file or not,” he says.

“If you worked for an accounting firm, you’d be doing exactly the same thing for the company that I’m teaching you,” Hyder explained, noting that Southern’s teaching faculty are always looking to offer opportunities for students to experience real-world work scenarios.

The program is also a unique way for students to serve the community, Hyder pointed out. “Over the last decade, we’ve secured $3.67 million in refunds for those in need in the greater Collegedale community.”

Glenn adds, “Serving is made easy at Southern, and VITA is one way that helps students envision how helping others as the hands and feet of Jesus can extend beyond the campus and after graduation.”

About Southern Adventist University

Founded in 1892, Southern Adventist University provides a high-quality Christian education to approximately 3,000 students currently earning degrees ranging from associate to doctorate. Grounded in Jesus Christ and dedicated to the beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the university equips students to embrace biblical truth, embody academic and professional excellence, and pursue Spirit-filled lives of service.

Identified in “Best Colleges” rankings for 21 consecutive years by U.S. News & World Report, Southern is also slated as one of the most diverse regional universities in the South. Southern welcomes community members to enjoy the university’s wellness center, vegetarian health food store, and nearly 40 miles of wooded trails on 1,300 acres (526 hectares).

The original version of this story was posted on the Southern Adventist University news site.