An idea to help TCC students ditch poverty by building social and financial capital recently won a United Way “Pitch to Ditch Poverty” competition. As a result, a group of staff, faculty and students will present the idea at the Poverty to Possibilities Conference at the Hotel Murano Nov. 12 – and then they’ll implement it here at TCC. That’s good news for TCC Accounting students, who will get free training and the opportunity to complete a 30-hour internship on campus.
Student Marie Nelson came up with the idea that Accounting students could complete internships focused on offering free tax prep to their fellow students during a conversation with Workforce Navigator Bethel Wolfe.
“A tax refund is the largest amount of money low income people receive at one time in a year,” said Nelson. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could help them help themselves?”
So, how does free tax prep assistance help students ditch poverty?
“Tax season is a time when people are thinking about money anyway,” explained Financial Navigator Austin Keever. “And often, when they get a refund, they either get taken advantage of by unscrupulous organizations, or they blow the money.”
Instead, Keever wants to encourage students to apply their refunds to their financial goals. During their tax prep appointments, students will be offered information about the many free financial management options available at TCC. The tax prep interns will encourage students to apply any refund money towards their financial goals, and students who think their financial goals lack clarity will be encouraged to contact Keever.
The “social capital” part of the equation includes offering workshops on topics like reading a contract and how to manage a lump sum, as well as bi-annual gatherings to nurture social capital. And student interns will be given training on co-active coaching as well as tax preparation.
A couple of challenges remain. The group that’s presenting at the Poverty to Possibilities conference is currently honing their message and working on their “ask.”
“We have the opportunity to address 200 – 300 business leaders,” explained Wolfe.
“We want to challenge them to find ways to share their social capital,” added student Ann-Sophia Martinez.
After meeting with a storytelling coach from United Way, the group broke the presentation into separate components. While staff and faculty explain how the idea will work, students will tell their personal stories of using social capital to break out of poverty.
The final challenge is finding a name for the internship program. The group would like something a little more exciting than “free tax prep” – hopefully something that will encourage students to come see them.
“If we could serve at least five percent of the students on campus, that would be great,” said Keever.