Forge Makes Virginia History with VITA Program



VITA certified students posing together. Photo by @Cforgeeagles on Instagram.

Allie Medina, Co-Editor in Chief

Less than two percent of high school students earn a VITA certification by their high school graduation.

VITA, or “Volunteer Income Tax Assistance,” allows students to aid those with trouble preparing their taxes. The IRS’s webpage on the program defines those who may need aid in preparing the forms as, “People who generally make $60,000 or less. Persons with disabilities; and Limited English-speaking taxpayers.” The service is completely free of charge and run by volunteers.

The teacher behind the incorporation of this program into Forge was Ms. Anna Killion, who teaches Business Education, Business Management, Business Law, Economics and Personal Finance, as well as both Accounting classes. She offered the opportunity to take the courses necessary to join the VITA program to each of her classes.

Participants had to pass through an application process and receive parental permission to gain full access to an IRS Canvas course that had all of the training materials needed.

Although the course was offered online and not during school hours, Ms. Killion still did her part in helping students achieve their certification. She held tutoring sessions during power hour where students could take the tests there if they wanted and get extra help on anything that confused them.

For some, the decision to join the program was a simple one.

“I chose to join the program because I’ve always been interested in anything economics related, and I would like to be a CPA when I’m older, and filing taxes is a big part of that. So when I saw the program, I thought, this looks like fun and I’d love to help people, so this seems like a good decision. […] I will take the test soon and I’m super excited, the class is so fun and I love the idea of helping people.” Emily Stoltenberg (‘24), a hopeful VITA volunteer, said.

However, the journey to certification isn’t always easy.

“Keeping up with the modules has been difficult. In order to learn information, the modules aren’t required and the progress isn’t tracked but it’s definitely something you want to look at and use as a resource in order to pass the test. It’s been hard. Especially while keeping up with other schoolwork,” Emily said.

Although she may have found it hard, she shared a common opinion with Ms. Killion. Both student and teacher were assured that colleges love students with their VITA certification.

“The thing that I love about the certification is that these students take the same test that even CPAs who volunteer for this program do, and so they get the title of certified tax preparer through the IRS. And that is something that probably 98% of other students who are applying for colleges don’t have so it gives them a leg up when it comes to applying for colleges,” said Ms. Killion.

Colonial Forge and Mountain View are the first in Virginia to implement and certify students for the VITA program, allowing students to aid people who may have trouble preparing their taxes for free.

“Getting this certification shows a real commitment to not only bettering yourself but also helping the community,” Ms. Killion added.

The first clinic took place Feb. 11 here at Colonial Forge; several participants including Nicole Janicki (‘23), Josue Blanco (‘24), and Jason Hernandez-Rubio (‘24), experienced their first time volunteering.

Jason (‘24) spoke on his experience at the clinic, “It was so stressful. It took a lot out of me because it was just a lot for our first day. I think I’ll feel a lot more comfortable doing it now that the first clinic is over. I’m understanding that I was just stressed out and overthinking and I think that our next time will go a lot more smoothly because we know what we’re doing. I’m excited for what the rest of Vita offers.”