Law School's VITA Program wins ABA national award for third consecutive year

Law School's VITA Program wins ABA national award for third consecutive year
Left to right: Barry VITA volunteers Kayla Mudge, Chanel Mosley, Ashley Spizzuco and Kaylynn Shoop.

For the third consecutive year, the American Bar Association (ABA) has awarded Barry University School of Law its National Law Student Division Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program Award.

The VITA Program was formed during the2005-06 academic year under the leadership of student site coordinator Andras Cziotka and the supervision of Barry tax professors Frank Schiavo and Patrick Tolan. In its first year the program had 15 volunteers, served more than 90 low to moderate income taxpayers and was applauded by the IRS for the lowest error rate of any new site in the region, contributing to its selection by the ABA Law Student Division for the “VITA Rookie Site Award.” Since that time, the program has experienced exponential growth, serving nearly 200 families in 2007 and more than 400 in 2008.

The IRS recognized the Barry VITA program as the fastest growing in Central Florida and has presented Barry with two Community Service Leadership Awards. Aggressive marketing through local community churches, apartment complexes, service organizations, the Orlando Extra Credit Campaign, and word of mouth has led to the program’s tremendous growth.

“The caring attitude of the entire Barry community and the commitment from the students, faculty, staff and administration has been phenomenal,” said Tolan. That support was visible through the 51 Barry Law School student volunteers who were trained and certified to e-file taxes directly with the IRS for the 2007 tax year on behalf of these clients. Barry was even able to send a student volunteer to work at the mobile IRS site assisting the coalition for the homeless and also sent volunteers to other sites throughout the greater Orlando region.

Barry was selected as winner of the VITA continuing site award in 2007 and 2008. Third-year law student Chanel Mosley, one of Barry’s four site coordinators this past tax year, was present to accept the award on behalf of the Law School. An accounting major, Mosley has been involved with the VITA program since she arrived at Barry and was recently elected to be the ABA Student Bar Association VITA Coordinator for our region.

“I have truly found my place at Barry University through the VITA program,” said Mosley. “The impact we have made and will continue to make within our community is key to the success of this program, and I love knowing that we really are reaching out to those who need us most. The services we provide to the community and the impressions we leave on those we help are the real reason I love this program so much.”