Former Volunteers Reflect on Their Experiences
Annmarie Stanton, CPA
FSO Assurance Manager, Ernst & Young LLP
My involvement at VITA during college has been influential on my career in various aspects. The program provided extensive IRS based training which gave me a great foundation for preparing individual income tax returns. In doing so, I was able to gain real life experience, including a part time role at a local CPA firm throughout most of college. While the program is a great service for the local community, more importantly, it connected the tax preparers to individuals or families who truly were appreciative of the help you were providing that they otherwise likely could not afford. The program allowed me to expand my network by building strong relationships with professors and the administration within the Fox School of Business that I am still currently connected with, as well as fellow students, now alumni, who work at other big 4 firms or within the industry. This opportunity allowed me to learn how to more clearly and efficiently communicate with executives and clients. This truly is a wonderful program; as a result, I continue to visit the VITA Ambler site annually and look forward to networking with current students to build relationships.
Ross Reiter, CPA
Senior Manager,KPMG LLP
Participating in the VITA program through Temple was one of the highlights of my accounting education. Not only was it a great opportunity to see my fellow accounting majors outside of the classroom, but the experience itself was very rewarding. Even though my knowledge of the tax code was limited, the training was extremely helpful in preparing me to do the job, and it was very satisfying to use that knowledge to help those less fortunate than me. The appreciation expressed by the single mothers, the elder couples, the parents struggling to make ends meet, and all the other walks of life we encountered was truly fulfilling. Such a small gesture on our end really meant a lot to them.
Jonathan C. Reiter, CPA
Director of Finance, Budget, and Capital Expenditures, Temple University
I participated in VITA from 2006 – 2009. It was actually a family affair – my twin brother, also an accounting major at Temple, and our father, a fellow CPA and Temple alum, also volunteered. At Ambler, we collected/organized clients’ workpapers, prepared their returns, and counseled them on their refund or amount owed. It was a very rewarding experience – it felt good to volunteer my time doing something that I enjoyed, and it also was a way to boost my resume by demonstrating to employers that I had some tax preparation experience. At first I was afraid that I needed to be an “expert” to complete these returns, but the training sessions that we were required to do taught us what we needed to know – it was great being able to use that knowledge to help others. I still have very fond memories of the experience, and I hope to volunteer again in the near future.
Steven Pham, CPA
Audit Manager, KPMG LLP
I participated in the VITA program from 2010 – 2012. As an accounting major at Temple, it was a great experience to being able to assist individuals file their income tax returns as well as being able to use what I learned in the classroom in a real world setting. There was initial hesitation when I first joined the VITA program, as I was afraid I would not have the knowledge and expertise to help individuals file their tax returns, but I can honestly say the training provided by Dr. Balsam and his team were very helpful and prepared me well. I still remain friends with other VITA volunteers from my time at Temple and still come to the annual banquet as an alumni.
Brian Schmechel, CPA
Quest Diagnostics, Inc.
I was part of VITA at Temple in Ambler in 2011. When I signed up, I saw it as an opportunity to hang out with classmates and of course, eat pizza; but it turned out to be a life changing decision. From the moment I got there, the training made tax, which was not an area of strength for me, not only interesting, but accessible. Even when I came across income/expenses that I did not know how to report, there were experts in every corner of the room that were right there to help. Working with clients one-on-one like that really empowered me as a student, much more so than taking a test or completing homework assignments. I was already so impressed with the program, what I had learned, and the people I had met, but then on top of all of it, I was given a scholarship that paid for my CPA learning materials. That scholarship kept me motivated through all of my studies; not only because of the opportunity I had been given, but because I did not want to let the people that believed in me down. Now, I have an active CPA License, a job I love, and fond memories; all of which VITA has been a great part of. When life allows, I will be back.
Senior Associate, The Siegfried Group, LLP
During the year 2013, as a student of Temple University’s Master of Accountancy program I participated in the VITA Tax preparation program. It was an incredible program to be part of, as I had the opportunity to not only give back to the less privileged within the Greater Philadelphia region, but I also gained hands on experience outside of the classroom through providing tax preparation services while improving my soft skills (i.e. customer service, team work etc.), for which I later found out was critical within Public Accounting. Dr. Balsam ensured that as a team we were well trained so there was no anxiety with regards to providing these services. I truly believe it is a win-win situation to be part of this program as you have the opportunity not only to develop yourself as a future professional but to also give back to the community. Thank you again Dr. Balsam for the experience.
Dan Mendes, CPA
Tax Manager, Washington National Tax – Corporate Tax Group, Deloitte Tax LLP
Outside of class, VITA (which I participated in from 2009-2010) was my first true experience working with any sort of tax forms. Volunteering with VITA greatly boosted my confidence in being able to work collaboratively with people on real-life tax technical matters. Also, not only was I able to build much closer relationships with my professors and receive one-on-one learning that I otherwise wouldn’t have experienced in a class setting; we had a lot of fun helping low income individuals and fellow students with their tax returns. I still look back to VITA as the first fundamental stepping stone to my career.
Stephen A. Doneson, CPA
It is admittedly a nerve-wracking thought that people would have entrusted me to sort through their personal financial records and assist with filing confidential government documents, especially as a freshman in college. However, a leap of faith allowed me to become one of the first cohort of volunteers in the VITA program at Temple Ambler back in 2008. I am glad I made the choice to volunteer, and followed through with it for my entire college experience, because it was extremely rewarding. As part of the program, I worked closely with professors and fellow students every Saturday during tax season outside the classroom setting to gain real-world experience. I had opportunities to supervise and train others on tax preparation, review completed tax returns, and research complex issues. Most importantly, I interacted with many families and individuals who were extremely appreciative of the service. In 2010, I acted as the student leader of the program, and led a campaign to increase participation and awareness of the program throughout Temple and the Ambler area. During that year, I was a recipient of Temple’s coveted Diamond Award for my service, leadership and achievement in the program. In my Senior year, I even received college credit for participating in the program. The VITA program helped define my college experience, honed my attention-to-detail, leadership and client service skills, and propelled me to success at my career as an auditor at EisnerAmper.