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As warmer temperatures arrive, many college kids come down with spring fever, but one group of Florida business students is staying focused. As Reed Galin reports, they are devoting their weekends to providing free tax prep to assist their community during uncertain financial times.

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SCRIPT:

(Locator: Daytona Beach, FL)

It’s a beautiful, sunny Saturday in Daytona Beach, Florida but university student Portsha Franklin is spending her day indoors.

Portsha Franklin: “I just need you to sign right here, and the date is already on there.”

Portsha is among 20 accounting majors at Bethune-Cookman University who trained with the IRS so she could help people like Shanice Johnson.

Portsha Franklin: “This is just outlining all your information.”

This is the first year the government’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program has been offered on this United Methodist campus. Professor Michelle Troian says students spend about an hour with each client.

Professor Michelle Troian, Accounting Instructor: “It’s fantastic to be able to have a class where the students prepare income tax returns in real life. So it’s taking the classroom setting and bringing it to life.”

Henry Hopkinson: “Take this form, and you fill it out to the best of your ability.”

The response of the community has been overwhelming and clients like Sophea Beckford, an unemployed mother of three, are grateful for the free service.

Sophea Beckford, Tax Prep Recipient: “It means a lot. If I knew how to do it myself, I would. So it’s great to have someone to come to help me do this.”

Student volunteers aim to keep the atmosphere upbeat.

Henry Hopkinson, Bethune-Cookman Student: “It’s not the typical, ‘I’m going to get my taxes done. Aw man it’s that time of year.’ It’s more like, ‘I’m going to get my taxes done by friendly people who really care about if I get a good credit or not.’”

As students put theory into practice, they learn a valuable lesson—reaching out to others makes a difference in people’s lives.

Shanice Johnson, Tax Prep Recipient: “I had a lot of questions being that this is my first time filling out my taxes. They were very helpful and informative and it was overall a great experience.”

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The Bethune-Cookman University free tax preparation program is offered every Saturday through April 10th. For more information about the program, log onto www.cookman.edu or contact Bethune-Cookman University by calling 386-481-2000.

Posted: March 24, 2010