The St. Xavier University (SXU) Graham School of Management (GSM) has participated in the Ladder Up program for more than five years, providing volunteers to support the program that guides low-income households to the resources they need to move up the economic ladder.
Through the Ladder Up Tax Assistance Program (TAP), the volunteers offer free electronic preparation and filing of individual tax returns to help clients access critical tax refunds.
During the 2019 season, 14 SXU volunteers returned an estimated $149,685 in tax refunds to hardworking clients through TAP.
Professor Donald Cyze, who has been teaching at SXU for over 25 years, played a crucial role in the success of the program. His leadership in recruiting and coordinating volunteers helped the program impact thousands of clients.
With the help of Professor Indranil Ghosh, chairman of the Division of Accounting and Finance, Cyze organized the program at SXU, citing it as a wonderful volunteer opportunity and a high-impact practice for the students.
“As a volunteer for Ladder Up,” said Cyze, “I found it emotionally gratifying and wanted to share that feeling and some practical experience with my tax students.”
Students learn about professional tax work, including how to interact with clients, prepare returns and work on a time constraint.
“Students are very enthusiastic about participating,” said Ghosh. “They really feel like they are fulfilling the SXU mission by assisting and serving those in need.”
After receiving training from Ladder Up, students are required to participate in several tax-preparation sessions. The experience also provides them with an opportunity to meet people from other socioeconomic backgrounds.
Cyze said that is one of his unspoken agendas.
“For some students,” said Cyze, “this may be the only experience they have had that requires they interact with a more diverse set of people.”
Faculty has embraced the program and finds it technically valuable and a great service to the community. Students find the program rewarding on a professional and personal level, and it is eye-opening for many to see what other people do not have.
Students also enjoy receiving the sincere expressions of thanks and gratitude that clients express. By participating, they are able to enjoy camaraderie among other volunteers at the sites. From time to time, GSM has even seen alumni return to participate in the program.
GSM officials said they plan to continue the program, and they said the work being done by students and faculty is fulfilling and rewarding.
Eventually, Cyze said, GSM would like to create its own volunteer income tax assistance program.