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High school students help local residents file their taxes

Press release from Alachua County Public Schools

A group of local high school students is helping Alachua County residents file their taxes—years before they themselves will need to file their own returns.

More than 105 students in Buchholz High School’s Academy of Finance have been trained and certified as tax preparers this year. They are now putting their skills and certification to work through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), which is coordinated by the United Way of North Central Florida in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service. 

This is the eighth year that BHS students have participated in the program. Typically, they would meet with the tax filers after school to work on their returns in person. But due to COVID, the program was handled differently this year. Michele Brothers and Chuck Bell met with the filers who dropped off their information at the school and collected preliminary information. Then the students took over. 

“This is an excellent opportunity for my students,” said Brothers, director of the Academy. “It reinforces what we are teaching in the classroom and could lead to employment in the future. The skills the students are developing through this service to the community are real-life skills that will put them ahead of other job applicants.”

The students spent two months training to qualify as tax preparers. They were then required to pass certification, interview, and ethics tests. The students had to meet the same standards as all volunteer certified tax preparers, regardless of age.

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Students at Buchholz have completed about 150 tax returns. The school is one of just two local VITA sites this year. 

Jordan Czaplewski is one of the students participating in the program. She says she enjoys being a part of VITA, and says it’s one of many practical opportunities the Academy of Finance offers its students.

“It puts real-life applications into the educational experience and prepares students for what they may be doing later,” she said.