Community Engagement News
Community Engagement News May 8, 2023
LEARNING AND SERVING
Accounting student Brandon Sanchez prepares a local community resident’s income tax return. As part of the VITA program on Barry’s Miami Shores campus, students provide tax preparation assistance to low- and moderate-income members of the community.
By Glenn Bowen
Barry students prepared more than 50 tax returns for local community members as part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program administered on the university’s Miami Shores campus during the 2023 tax-filing season.
Taxpayers served by the program were expected to receive a total of $46,618 in income tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), reported Dr. Kevin Kemerer, associate professor of accounting. The average income tax refund would amount to $951, he noted.
Dr. Kemerer said nine of those taxpayers, who qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), would receive $9,109, with the average EITC at $1,012.
The IRS-sponsored VITA program offers free tax preparation assistance to people who generally make $60,000 or less, as well as persons with disabilities and taxpayers who speak limited English.
The EITC helps low- to moderate-income workers and families get a tax break. It benefits wage earners whose income is less than $59,187 and who satisfy other requirements.
The five students who prepared tax returns are Rosalinda Lopez, Julian Macias, Tassai Pemberton, Jada Saintvil, and Brandon Sanchez.
Accounting student Jada Saintvil shows off her certificate. With her, from left, are Dr. Kevin Kemerer, associate professor of accounting; Dr. Bogdan Daraban, dean of the Andreas School of Business and Public Administration; and Ms. Gina Ruiz-Fernandez, an IRS senior tax consultant.
Through his service-learning course on federal income tax, Dr. Kemerer taught the students the tax code and the fundamentals of preparing tax returns.
The students also took a battery of tests as part of the required IRS certification process. Each student received the advanced certification, foreign student/scholar certification, military certification, and international certification.
Dr. Kemerer, who has served as the VITA site coordinator since 2013, reported on the program during the end-of-semester celebration for his small accounting class last Tuesday, May 2.
“This year’s tax class was small, but the students did a great job,” he said. “I am proud of the work they did and what they accomplished.”
The students pictured above, left to right, are Rosalinda Lopez and Tassai Pemberton; below, left to right, are Julian Macias and Brandon Sanchez. The occasion was the end-of-tax-season celebration in the School of Business and Public Administration. As IRS-certified volunteers, the students provided basic income tax return preparation to qualified individuals. – Photos contributed
On hand to acknowledge the work of the students were Dr. Bogdan Daraban, dean of the Andreas School of Business and Public Administration, and Gina Ruiz-Fernandez, senior stakeholder relationship tax consultant with the Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication (SPEC) office of the IRS.
Dean Daraban congratulated the students on their achievements. He also thanked them and Dr. Kemerer for serving the community so well through the VITA program.
Ms. Ruiz-Fernandez expressed appreciation for the service provided at Barry’s Miami Shores VITA site and pride in the IRS/SPEC partnership with Barry University.
Students Lend a Helping Hand at Community Farm in Liberty City
Volunteers at work on a farm in Liberty City, which was created by Urban GreenWorks as part of its community food-security strategy. – Photos by Mia Hunt
A small group of student volunteers from Barry recently assisted with several tasks at Urban GreenWorks’ Cerasee Farm in Liberty City.
The students weeded sections of the farm, potted moringa plants, did some harvesting, and fed chickens.
“Apart from doing service, the students were educated on the variety of fruits and vegetables that are grown on the farm,” reported Mia Hunt, facilitator for the Barry Urban Garden. “They also learned the various uses and benefits of herbal medicine.”
Ms. Hunt thanked Urban GreenWorks representative Bradley Jean-Joseph for being “very helpful in guiding and educating the group.”
Named for a tropical vine, Cerasee Farm was created by Urban GreenWorks as part of its community food-security strategy. The farm represents the transformation of trash-strewn, abandoned lots into a food forest where a variety of fruits and vegetables are cultivated and sold to the community.
Cerasee Farm grows and sells food to the community, an urban food desert, and provides produce for farmers markets, neighborhood restaurants and a corner store in Lemon City.
The Liberty City section of Miami is approximately 95% Black, and over 25% of its residents have lived below the poverty line. The neighborhood is a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-classified food desert – an area without a fully stocked grocery store or healthy food options within a one-mile radius.
CCSI Offers Support to Faculty Teaching Service-Learning Courses in Fall Semester
The Center for Community Service Initiatives (CCSI) is offering support to faculty who will teach designated service-learning courses in the fall 2023 semester.
The service-learning modules, which were created in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, will no longer be offered. Faculty members are therefore encouraged to resume teaching their service-learning courses as designated based on established criteria.
In an email to faculty whose students were enrolled in service-learning modules this academic year, the CCSI thanked them for their “enduring commitment” to engaging their students with the community.
“Some students had a good experience as they were able to apply their knowledge and skills in addressing specific social issues,” the May 5 email said. “Community partners are grateful for the assistance they received as they sought to deliver programs and services to their clients and the wider community.”
Dr. Heather Johnson Desiral, experiential learning facilitator, will assist with providing service-learning support to faculty in the fall and throughout the 2023–2024 academic year.
Two Organizations Call for Session Proposals for Community Engagement Conferences
The International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE) is accepting presentation proposals for its 2023 conference, which will address the theme “Redefining Research, Access, and Inclusion in SLCE.”
Proposals should be based on scholarship that answers such questions as these: How does research/scholarship inform and support accessible and inclusive SLCE practice? What are the SLCE innovations around access and inclusion that guide best practice for scholarship?
The IARSLCE Conference will take place on October 25–27 at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Details of the conference theme and proposal submission process are available at the IARSLCE website.
Starting next week, Campus Compact—the national coalition of colleges and universities committed to the public purposes of higher education—will accept session proposals for its 2024 conference.
Compact24 is scheduled for April 7–10 at the Hilton Denver City Center in Denver, Colorado. Participants will include faculty and staff members whose work involves civic engagement, university–community partnerships, civic learning, service-learning, and other community-engaged work.
According to the conference organizers, “now is a great time to begin brainstorming and collaborating with partners to prepare to submit a session proposal.”
The organizers are offering “days packed with learning and sharing knowledge, building professional networks, and connecting with colleagues and friends.”
Details of the conference and the call for proposals will be posted to the Campus Compact website.
BARRY SERVICE CORPS: The Barry Service Corps – a civic learning and leadership program – is being revitalized and the recruitment of members for the 2023–2024 academic year is in full swing.
PICTORIAL REPORT: The academic year’s final issue of this newsletter will include a selection of photos from various events.