March 27, 2018
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -
Fernando Aguilar of Newburgh, N.Y., an Accounting student on the 5-year master’s track, prepares a client’s tax return at King of Kings Lutheran Church in New Windsor, N.Y. This is the second year he has volunteered with the program.
With Tax Day looming, Mount Saint Mary College student Fernando Aguilar of Newburgh, N.Y. spends his Monday mornings preparing returns for residents of the New Windsor, N.Y. area.
The Accounting major is volunteering for the second year in a row with a tax assistance program offered annually by the AARP Tax-Aide Foundation, the Mid-Hudson CASH Coalition, and the United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region. This season marks the seventh year the Mount has been involved with the program, which provides free tax preparation for local middle- and low-income families.
“I’m helping people and I’m learning what I hope is my job in the future,” said Aguilar. “We help the elderly, we help the disabled, we help young people who don’t understand taxes yet, we help everyone who comes through the door. It’s a win-win situation for everybody.”
As he works at his computer station in King of Kings Lutheran Church, Aguilar’s reward comes not in the form of cash or college credits, but the gratitude of his clients.
“When you’re sitting there with them, they’ll tell you their stories,” he said. “You feel their happiness and their pain with them. Everyone has felt lost, everyone will feel lost eventually, and you relate with them. You connect with them, every single person.”
Aguilar is one of nearly 20 Mount student volunteers who trained for at least 40 hours though classroom work with AARP certified instructors, then passed an IRS certification exam. There was a great deal of self-study after classes in order to pass, he added.
Mount students serve their community in donated spaces throughout the area, including the Newburgh Ministry and the Newburgh Free Library. In total, taxes are being prepared at 36 locations throughout Dutchess and Orange counties this year.
More than 7,000 returns were prepared last year through the program, leading to more than $6 million returned in the form of tax credits and refunds.
All that experiential learning has helped Aguilar in his coursework at the college. Skills that are new to his peers are second nature at this point, he said.
“Thanks to my Tax-Aide training, some of my classes are much easier,” Aguliar said. “The training prepares you so much for it…if you’re in the 5-year master’s program like me, I feel like this is a must.”
As in years previous, the Mount’s Center for Career and Experiential Education was a driving force in the success of the Tax Aide program. Kathleen O’Keefe, director of the Center for Career and Experiential Education, served on the Tax-Aide Planning Committee, informed students of the program and how to join, helped bring training to the Mount campus, and monitored Mount volunteer success.
As for Aguilar, he’s already planning to donate his services to the program next year.
In addition to Aguilar and several Mount alumni volunteers, Mount students sharing their accounting techniques are Conner Bacci of Bayside, N.Y.; Christina Gatt of Hicksville, N.Y.; Christopher Grevas of Modena, N.Y.; Brian Lopez of Newburgh, N.Y.; Dan Meredith of Pine Bush, N.Y.; Jamie Monachino of Staten Island, N.Y.; Crystal Mullings of Chester, N.Y.; Hannah Pascual of Freeport, N.Y.; Michaela Pelletier of Bridgeport, Conn; Luis Romero of New Windsor, N.Y.; Christian Spano of Mahopac, N.Y.; Tyler Swartz of Massapequa, N.Y.; Jessica Tobar of Beacon, N.Y.; and Owen White of Beacon, N.Y.