Queensborough Student Says: “Community College Is A Fantastic Path To Take To Earn A Great Education At An Affordable Cost.”

Published: June 27, 2023

Accounting Student Credits Great Professors and Lifechanging Internship Opportunities


This past tax filing season (Jan-April 2023), five students in Queensborough Community College’s Business Department participated in the QCC Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) through the Food Bank of New York City. This was the third year that Queensborough participated in the program.

Students were trained to prepare individual tax returns and volunteered their time to prepare tax returns for low-income members in the Queens and New York City community.

“This is a meaningful and effective way for students to assist our fellow community members and gain valuable experience at the same time,” said Professor Mark Ulrich, Assistant Professor in the Business department who started the Queensborough VITA program in 2019-2020. “This past tax filing season, our student volunteers helped members of the community receive about $250,000 in tax refunds.”

In late 2022, early 2023, students completed official IRS training and passed an IRS exam to participate in the VITA program, and then an in-person training program run by the Food Bank of New York City. During tax filing season, they volunteered their time to complete tax returns for low-income individuals and families throughout the five boroughs. Here are the statistics of the returns they completed:

Five Queensborough students completed 228 tax returns, generated over a quarter million dollars in refunds for low-income NYC residents, and saved over $100,000 in tax preparation fees. The average adjusted gross income of their clients was $16,808, so both the refunds and tax prep fee savings are tremendously important for these individuals and families.

“The wonderful thing about VITA is helping people prepare basic worksheets to help them file lower income taxes,” said Jeremy Castro, ’20, who majored in accounting at Queensborough. He learned about the VITA program from Ulrich before the pandemic. “We were lucky to work in person for about a month.”

Castro didn’t have much time to explore his academic interests when he first enrolled at Queensborough in 2005 before the Great Recession hit in 2006. Supporting himself, he knew it was imperative to get a job and dropped out.

“Being an assistant store manager for GameStop and then for CVS for a long time made me reconsider my choices. And when my friends talked about their own careers as CPAs, I realized how versatile accounting can be and that’s when I decided to go back to school.”

And so, at 30 years old Castro re-enrolled at Queensborough in 2018 as an accounting major.

“I really didn’t expect a subject like accounting to be engaging,” Castro laughed. “But my professors knew how to take the numbers off the excel sheet so to speak and make us see the larger picture. To expand our views beyond just financial transactions.”

It was Ulrich who encouraged Castro to apply for the VITA program, explaining that it would be an invaluable experience to combine the knowledge he had gained in the classroom with community service. Once he and other VITA student volunteers completed the official IRS training, passed an IRS exam, and attended an in-person training run by the Food Bank of New York City, they were assigned clients by the Food Bank of New York City supervisors. Students were able to work at various Food Bank sites in Queens and other parts of New York City, and now after the pandemic, students have options to volunteer virtually.

Current accounting student Justin Chan, who enrolled at Queensborough in 2021 agrees.

“I have great professors,” said the Nassau County resident, “They have provided me plentiful opportunities to take advantage of and Professor Ulrich made it possible for me to gain intimate knowledge of how to prepare income taxes, while also providing an invaluable service to the low-income community.

Chan participated once a week at the Financial Empowerment Center in Harlem. He walked away from the experience he said with having met wonderful people, acquire a better grasp on how to prepare income taxes, and a desire to volunteer at VITA again’.

Chan came to Queensborough already holding a bachelor’s degree. "After obtaining my degree from Queensborough I’m hoping to have enough credits to be eligible for the CPA exam.

He offers this advice to perspective students: community college is a fantastic path to take to earn an outstanding education at an affordable cost.

If you plan on transferring to a four-year college, make sure that most of your credits will transfer, otherwise you’ll spend more time and money trying to earn your degree.

Take advantage of the scholarships that are available through CUNY and other websites.

Look for opportunities that are provided through the college newsletter and suggestions made by professors; you never know what could help you on your career path. And speak with your professors about your future aspirations as they could help by sharing their own experiences and help you network.

Now, Castro is a Senior Accountant at Edward Torres, CPA, in Queens, where he prepares individual taxes, trusts and estate returns.

“The goal of VITA is to make sure those with lower income receive all the credits they are entitled to such as child tax credits and the earned income tax credit.”

“I remember my days at Queensborough with affection and gratitude. My professors inspired me to stay the course and guided me toward an invaluable steppingstone to launch my career—one that I love. And it opened my eyes to the importance of community and to programs like VITA. I continue to recommend people to VITA...and to Queensborough Community College.”


Contact:  Alice Doyle

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