More than just a number
Kseniya Shakhova loves crunching numbers, but her true passion is the people behind them.
A junior double majoring in accounting and finance, she has found the perfect on-campus job to satisfy both interests – student director of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), a free community service available through Berry’s Campbell School of Business.
“It’s so unique, because you really get to know people,” she explained. “They all have their own families, their own situations, their own stories. You can’t approach them in the same way.”
Mastering the intricacies of the tax system wasn’t easy – “At first, it was like Chinese to me,” Kseniya acknowledged – but once she completed the rigorous preparation and testing required by the IRS and began working with clients in the local community, she fell in love with it.
“In the end, you get this really gratifying feeling, especially when they get a refund,” she noted with a wide smile. “It’s like, ‘Yes, I did your taxes! I’m so happy for you!’ I jump for joy with them.”
Kseniya’s journey actually started in the Ukraine, where she lived until the age of 10. The promise of new opportunities eventually brought her family to America, and Kseniya found hers at Berry.
“When I came to Berry, it just felt right,” she said. “It just felt like I was home. I’ll never forget it. People were smiling. They were so happy and welcoming. I just didn’t get that anywhere else. I wasn’t another number, an addition. Here I was someone.”
There’s no mistaking Kseniya for just another number, and her contributions to others – especially during tax season – echo far beyond the balance sheet. Reflecting on her experiences, the recipient of the Steven J. Cage Endowed Scholarship is especially grateful to those whose generosity made it possible for her to flourish.
“Without my scholarships, I would not have come to Berry,” she said. “It would have been a dream but not a reality. I feel very lucky to be here. Berry has so many opportunities – things I couldn’t have done or experienced in any other school. It’s so surreal that my dream became a reality, thanks to the donors and the work program. I’m thankful – very, very thankful.”
By Alyssa Hollingsworth
Student Editorial Supervisor