AUGUSTA — Students in the Business Careers Academy at Capital Area Technical Center are getting a head start on college by earning transferable college credits while still in high school.

And some of those same students are doing local residents’ taxes for them for free, as part of a program that could result in the students, upon successful completion of the program and an exam, becoming certified tax preparers.

“I’ll be certified and be able to do this to make some extra cash,” Cony senior Dayshawn Roberts said of preparing taxes. “And I’ll have 21 college credits that will transfer to college, so that’s great. That’s like three-quarters of a year” worth of college credits before he even officially enters college.

Roberts said he plans to attend Manhattanville College in New York.

On a recent afternoon, Roberts and fellow Cony seniors Emma Madison and Alexsandra Orio asked Eula Roberts, 88, of Augusta, a series of questions and, based on her answers, completed and filed her taxes for her, a service students provide at no charge.

Eula Roberts said she and her husband had their taxes done by students last year, were happy with the results, and pleased with the manner and skills of the students.

“I don’t know what I’m doing” with tax forms, she said. “They did a good job last year, so I came back this year. They’ve got to learn how to do it somewhere. People should know they do a good job.”

Eula Roberts, who is retired, said she’ll be getting a $33 tax refund this year.

“We try to find everything they’re eligible for and get them as much as we can,” said Dayshawn Roberts, who wore a tie, collared shirt and V-neck sweater for the appointment. “It puts a smile on their faces. I enjoy it. It’s fun to get to meet new people.”

Program instructor Ryan Wheaton, who holds multiple master’s degrees, has agreements to teach his students seven different college courses, such as financial accounting and principles of management, based on programs from three different colleges, which together total 21 credit hours. The partnering colleges are Thomas College in Waterville, Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield, and Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle.

“I use their curriculum, the same books, and teach like they would at the colleges,” Wheaton said of the business courses. “It should really give (students) a leap up. Next year we’re going to have 10 business classes. So at the end of the year, if they pass all their classes, they’ll leave here with 30 credits. That’s a year’s worth of college, and it doesn’t cost them anything.”

Wheaton said the credits are transferable to nearly every college in New England, other than Bates, Colby and Bowdoin colleges.

Madison expects to complete the Business Careers Academy program and get those 21 credits, as well as other credits through other college courses she’s taking, and graduate from high school with 30 college credits.

She plans to attend Thomas College to study business.

“This will take some classes away I would have needed to take,” she said.

Orio said she’s had a job since she was 14. But until she got into the Business Careers Academy — which started last year at the regional technical center, taking students from eight surrounding sending schools — she had never filled out a tax form.

“The majority of it is just common sense,” she said of completing tax returns. “It is very time-consuming. You have to make sure you do it accurately.”

Eula Roberts said she had no concerns about high school students doing her taxes, noting that Wheaton checks their work before they’re filed.

Orio plans to go to college after studying for a year to become a beautician.

She said understanding taxes and the concepts of business management should serve her well both in college and as a beautician.

Wheaton said students will keep helping people complete their taxes for as long as people keep coming for help, even beyond the April 15 tax-filing deadline. Wheaton said that deadline is for people who owe taxes and said people who don’t can still file after that date.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]


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