Angela Rouse recently volunteered her time as a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) volunteer to help low-income families in Los Angeles with their taxes at Koreatown Youth and Community Center (KYCC), a United Way non-profit partner. Read more about her experience and passion to our Greater Los Angeles Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Campaign, which helps working families save money by providing access to free income tax preparation, tax credits, and information about other free financial services. Click here to become a VITA volunteer.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I graduated from Stanford University in 2011 with a degree in economics and a minor in modern languages. After graduation, I spent two years in management consulting at Bain & Company in Chicago and am currently working at Red Bull North America in Strategic Planning. I get really excited by two things: People and outcomes. I love working together with members of my organization or other organizations to help change the way something is done or accomplish a new project. As a VITA volunteer, I’m able to apply these skills in the broader LA community.
How and why did you become a VITA volunteer?
I became a VITA volunteer because VITA is a really tangible way to give back to the community. On top of that, I enjoy meeting new people and volunteering at VITA gives me the opportunity to help out while engaging with members of the community. It feels really rewarding to help someone navigate the complexities of filing taxes and, in most cases, get a refund they can use to help their families.
How was your volunteer experience?
I’ve had a very positive experience as a VITA volunteer. I volunteer at the Koreatown Youth and Community Center(KYCC), and the staff there is very supportive and helpful.
VITA has also given me a number of opportunities for me to develop professionally. Interacting with clients requires me to be a good listener to best address the client’s questions and concerns. It also requires me to be a good communicator to help the client understand the intricacies of tax law. I’ve found the most valuable skill I’ve learned is how to describe tax credits and deductions in a way that is most relevant to each client. Some clients prefer to understand every detail of the tax return, while others would rather have their return summarized. Listening to them allows me to get an understanding of their communication style and engage with them accordingly.
Why do you think it’s important to give back to your community?
Giving back to the community is important for two reasons. First, I'm very grateful for all those who have given of their time, talents, or resources to build the communities I've been a part of in my life so far, and for me it seems that the only way for such programs to perpetuate is to reciprocate. Volunteering is a way for me to say thank you.
Second, I think many volunteer programs encourage different groups within the community to engage, which fosters understanding and acceptance across the community. As a teenager, I remember volunteering in a nursing home and learning so much from the residents. Similarly, I now do a lot of volunteer work with children (through Junior Achievement and KIPP) and have similarly learned quite a bit from the youngest members of the community. An open and accepting community will always be a stronger community.
First, I would encourage others to consider VITA even if they do not have a background in accounting or tax law. VITA will provide you with the training you need to understand the tax needs of the clients we serve, and the coordinators on site will provide guidance on the more difficult tax situations.
Second, I would like potential volunteers to know that the program is flexible. The training sessions can be completed online if needed, and there are opportunities to volunteer all over the city on every day of the week from January through April. You can volunteer as much as you like and all of the scheduling is done online – great for busy or unpredictable schedules!