Yesenia Fuentes, a Canoga Park resident who best communicates in Spanish, is one of many Latina/o customers that the CSUN VITA Clinic has helped file tax returns.
The CSUN VITA Clinic is a free program that assists low-income people with the process of filing their tax returns, and has been serving the San Fernando Valley community for 48 years. With generous support from City National Bank, the CSUN VITA Clinic has been able to expand its services and offer Spanish interpretation at all of its sites.
Fuentes used to go to private organizations that offer Spanish-speaking services and charge for their services. But through a friend, Fuentes learned about CSUN VITA.
"They told me about the office and I came to the building. I knew all about the services they offered," she said.
The CSUN VITA Clinic provides Spanish-language interpreters who are also CSUN students. Through the Interpreting Practicum for bilingual students, which is arranged by the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and led by assistant professor Svetlana Tyutina, CSUN graduate and undergraduate students interested in acquiring experience in business translation complete a self-paced training for interpreters and then serve as volunteer interpreters for the free VITA Clinic Tax preparers for at least 24 hours.
Fuentes is one of the 4.4 million Spanish speakers in the Los Angeles metro area with differing levels of English-Language proficiency. She works cleaning houses and says that her experience with the CSUN VITA Clinic has been exceptional. She feels so satisfied with the program that she has recommended it to her friends and family.
"It's been about three years since I heard about this service," she said. "I like that I don’t have to pay to be able to file taxes. The service is free."
Leslie Ignacio, a 20-year-old CSUN Spanish major minoring in journalism, has been an English-to-Spanish interpreter for one semester for the CSUN VITA Clinic. Ignacio’s language skills are in high demand in certain areas.
"One day I had four appointments back to back,” said Ignacio. “That was a busy shift.”
Ignacio found it difficult to memorize the tax vocabulary in English and Spanish, but she is happy to be part of VITA because she is not only helping the Latino community but also gaining professional experience. Ignacio will be able to get credit for school and she’ll also be able to put this experience on her resume.
Ignacio also explained that this program really does helps working-class people who do not speak English very well and do not have the funds to pay for the tax service.
"The fact that this service is free is really the best thing about VITA,” said Ignacio. “Many come here and say that they have gone to other places where they charge a lot. Clients are truly grateful for the CSUN VITA Clinic."