Two high school teachers from Jacksonville, Florida, recently reached out to the IRS Stakeholder, Partnerships, Education and Communication (SPEC) Division with an interest in sponsoring a Free Tax Return Preparation program on their school campuses.
After attending a National Academy Foundation conference in California, the directors of VYSTAR Academy of Business & Finance, Phyleshia Jones and Diedra McNair-Pickney, from Jean Ribault High School and Samuel W. Wolfson High School, respectively, were interested in their schools taking part in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.
During the conference, they heard a representative from a Texas school speak about the VITA program and their involvement in it throughout the years. Phyleshia and Diedra later met with Jacksonville’s United Way of North East Florida Real Sense VITA program and SPEC and decided to operate a VITA site at their respective schools.
While most students were enjoying spring break in sunny Florida, students from these two high schools spent their vacation preparing income tax returns as IRS-certified volunteers at their campus. Also in town were university students from the School of Business, Accounting & Finance at the University of Indiana, who travel to Florida each year to volunteer with the Real Sense VITA program.
SPEC conducts site reviews at all new VITA sites. On the day SPEC territory manager Lee Edmondson and relationship manager Priscilla Phillips conducted the review at JRHS, they found both university volunteers and high school volunteers working together to prepare tax returns. “It’s so exciting to see these young women out here volunteering to help people do their taxes,” said Priscilla, “And, I’m especially proud to see how well they work together.”
In addition to hosting VITA sites, the two high schools support a VYSTAR Credit Union facility on campus, servicing students, faculty and staff during lunch periods. The credit union employs some of the students who work on Saturdays and during the summer at various VYSTAR locations.