Two assist two VITA Clinic clients with their taxes.
Students Melissa Cortez, left, and interpreter Ana Castro, 2nd left, help clients with their tax preparation during the VITA Clinic free tax preparation services at Bookstein Hall on California State University, Northridge in Los Angeles, California, Tuesday, March 19, 2024. (Photo by Ringo Chiu / CSUN)

CSUN’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (or VITA) Clinics offer valuable job experience, not only to accounting students who learn the ins and outs of tax preparation, but also to all qualified students who want to become interpreters. Regardless of major, students can work as interpreters and get paid for their efforts. 

“Providing interpreting services is essential to supporting our local community,” said Svetlana V. Tyutina, professor of Spanish with the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures. “The VITA services are free, but what if you don’t speak English? We have a win-win way of addressing that issue: our students provide this vital service and, at the same time, they learn about interpreting.”

The student interpreters greet clients, go over forms with them, and interpret interactions with the student tax preparers. Interpreters for both Spanish and American Sign Language are available, with 16 Spanish interpreters and four ASL interpreters currently on staff.

Tyutina’s graduate students volunteer as Spanish interpreters for VITA as part of their service learning project, and are encouraged to continue their work for pay once the project is completed. 

Valeria Corona, a graduate student in the Spanish program and an interpreter for VITA, said there is a real need for the service.

“Providing interpretation is important because it makes tax preparation more accessible to people,” she said. “People feel stress and worry about having to do taxes in a language they don’t know, so having someone sort of mediating and making it smoother for them is really important.”

Corona said that working in the VITA program has been a valuable experience, and one she appreciates.

“You’re really helping people that need this service and you can see they’re very appreciative of being helped in their native language, especially when it comes to something that can be stressful, like taxes,” she said. 

Taxpayers can request an interpreter when they schedule appointments, but the student interpreters are available at every CSUN VITA Clinic location during tax season regardless of appointments. 

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