By Nancy Winckler-Zuniga
Originally posted in The Florida Times-Union
Shortly after retiring from 39 years of teaching math – algebra for ninth graders – Glenda Young decided that although she missed her kids, she missed numbers, too.
So, Young signed up to take another algebra class at Florida State Community College of Jacksonville. While Young attempted to take the class unobtrusively, gradually she became someone fellow students turned to for advice.
“I would get to class a few minutes after it started,” Young said. “Most of the students sat toward the back, so I would sit up front. I’d hold back from answering questions.”
During a quiet conversation one day with a young man who’d noticed she seemed to know what she was doing, she made a few suggestions and watched to see what happened.
“I told him that I’d look back later, and he could give me thumbs up or thumbs down,” Young said. “One day I walked in and he picked up his backpack and came and sat next to me.”
When the last day of face-to-face class time came, he made a point to come in, just to tell her thank you.
Young enjoys helping people understand numbers, and now in retirement, she’s found a new niche – volunteering with United Way of Northeast Florida’s RealSense financial-stability initiative as a volunteer tax preparer and financial educator. From the time she was a girl growing up in Amityville, N.Y., until moving to the Fernandina Beach area, Young has found a way to have numbers be a part of her life.
“My mother taught me to do my own taxes,” Young said. “She was preparing us for what was to come.”
Years before volunteering with RealSense, she participated in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, but then her teaching career and children came along.
Retirement meant she was able to look at volunteering again. Young initially volunteered and received training through AARP’s tax program. When she saw a poster advertising a United Way RealSense tax preparation site, she walked in and started volunteering there as well.
One day, her AARP site coordinator mentioned United Way’s financial education classes. Once again, the chance to share her understanding of numbers sparked her interest.
“I thoroughly enjoy the five-week class sessions and working with the same people,” Young said. “I realized I’ve been through similar situations, but I’d forgotten. Now I tell them, here’s what I had to do. It’s not just theory.”
She sees the difference the classes make even in small ways, which can ultimately lead to big changes in someone’s financial stability.
“One woman told me she couldn’t leave her credit cards home,” Young said. “After the fifth class, she told me she left them home. Her mother called me later and told me she’d been trying to tell her to do that for 35 years!”
This fall, she’ll begin her recertification for tax preparation again. She can’t wait to help her clients make sense of the numbers.
For more information on United Way of Northeast Florida’s RealSense financial-stability issue – including how to volunteer like Young – visit unitedwaynefl.org/realsense.
Miller Electric contributes $1 million to United Way to advance race, equity and social justice in Northeast Florida