Chelsea Blum knows a bit about people. For the second year, she's part of a group of Edgewood College students who works with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue to offer free tax preparation assistance. The College has been a partner with the Department for the past five years.
Students and other volunteers go through six sessions of training, and must pass required exams in order to earn the certification that enables them to assist taxpayers with both the state and federal returns. The all-volunteer sessions run Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays in three locations: Stoughton, Madison, and at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Madison.
"I do like it. It's different than other internships you can set up, because you're actually sitting there with the taxpayers preparing returns, in the software, learning the format and everything you need to know about tax preparation, and about these clients. It's much better than, say, sitting in some cubicle the where you might be with a stack of papers by yourself."
But of course when there are real people involved, real life has a way of creeping in. Those encounters, she says, keep her on her toes.
"You get some really interesting experiences working one-on-one with these clients. You see some of the same people. I'm starting to recognize some of the people. There's a couple of (U.S. military) veterans that come - with a lot of personality - and they'll say, 'hey you, smiley, you're back.'
"There are people, too, this happened last year, they got their return done with us and they didn't like what they were getting - their refund - and so they left without us filing on it. And they went to a (paid tax preparer) and got the same result, so they came back, and filed for free. They'll probably do the same thing this year. A lot of people with a lot of character."
She says this is her way of contributing to her community, of taking what she learns is the classroom and connecting with others.
"I could be spending my Saturday and Sunday mornings differently," she says. "In doing this you're giving back to your community. These are a lot of elderly, and low-income, single-parent families. It's nice spending my Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays doing something useful."