UCSB VITA Volunteers Give Back

United Way of Santa Barbara County recently sat down with two of our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) volunteers from UCSB, Emily Tsai and Andres Gomez, to talk with them about their personal perspective of the program, their experience as volunteers, and the decision that led them to partner up with VITA this year. 
1. How have you seen Individuals/Families Impacted by VITA?
Emily Tsai: "A lot of our clients that come have simple returns, but they can wind up spending more than they need to if they have their taxes prepared elsewhere. I am always happy to show our community that they can get the help they need for free."

Andres Gomez: "Being a part of VITA, I have seen how individuals are impacted through the services we provide. I have seen individuals become more comfortable with their own tax situation. We are always constantly learning, and indirectly this benefits our clients as they gain tax knowledge while we assist them with their returns. Personally, I have heard individuals say that they feel more in control of their tax situation from what they learn at VITA. Incentives for education such as the American Opportunity Credit is an example of something that taxpayers often ask about, and I believe it gives people the motivation to continue or start their studies."
2. What have you learned about the Greater Santa Barbara Community through volunteering? 
Emily Tsai: “I have learned that I am able to help people from different backgrounds than my own, which is a humbling experience. Through United Way, I have also gotten to know more about the community by interacting with the partners and businesses that work together through the VITA program.”
Andres Gomez: “Having been born and raised in Santa Barbara, volunteering at UCSB VITA has been a great opportunity for me to give back to my own community. Being at UCSB VITA has exposed me to the large student population that I have become accustomed to in my undergraduate studies. However, I recognize that the community is diverse and is home to many working families as well. While these two groups seem different, these two communities often overlap as members of working families also often pursue higher education. Lastly, I have learned that Santa Barbara is a multilingual community, not only being limited to Spanish and English. The different languages I have been exposed to while serving at UCSB VITA has been a learning experience for me and I am excited to see what the future holds for the Greater Santa Barbara Community.”

3. What would you say to encourage others to get involved in the community?
Emily Tsai: "Throughout the tax season, everybody in the UCSB site sets aside a few hours in order to make a difference for their peers and local community. You do not have to be involved in tax preparation to do this; United Way has plenty of programs you can get involved with in order to bring change: such as volunteering with Lunch Bunch (Fun in the Sun), joining the Young Leaders Society, Volunteering with Day of Caring, or even just supporting programs financially.  All it takes is a few hours out of your day or few dollars a month!"
Andres Gomez: "Getting out there and volunteering is a great way to develop leadership skills and teach others. As the old saying goes, you don't know something entirely until you can teach it to someone else. Being able to see how small actions can make a big difference in people's lives is a reason in itself to get out there and volunteer."