TJ on a Habitat build site

Habitat AmeriCorps profile: T.J. Burghart

When T.J. Burghart graduated from college he faced all of the same questions and opportunities that so many graduates face.

T.J. had volunteered with Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia during his time at Philadelphia University and, upon receiving his degree in architecture, decided his path led to serving as a Habitat AmeriCorps member.

“When my friends were graduating, they were all going to very well-paying jobs that were directly related to the architecture field,” T.J. says. “I didn’t feel that was my calling. The experiences I had with Habitat were too good to pass up.”

“I chose a much more fun route,” he says. That route has been full of opportunities to learn and grow.

“Habitat is a great equalizer that provides value for everyone, whether it’s the volunteer, the partner family, the site supervisor. It doesn’t matter who you are when you show up and what you know. You are of value. That is a great thing.

“The beauty of being in AmeriCorps with Habitat was the opportunity to learn in a very fast-paced environment,” T.J. says. “As the construction crew leader, your tasks did vary, whether it was cladding the building with siding or doing the drywall on the inside or flooring.

“You might be flooring for three days, and then each of those days you might have different volunteers, each with a varying skill level,” he continues. “So you had to figure out different ways to effectively communicate with different groups of people.”

“Habitat is a great equalizer that provides value for everyone, whether it’s the volunteer, the partner family, the site supervisor.”
— T.J. Burghart, Habitat AmeriCorps member

During T.J.’s two years of service, he had the chance to participate in Habitat’s AmeriCorps Build-a-Thon events in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Wake County, North Carolina. During these annual events, AmeriCorps members and alumni from across the country travel to select U.S. cities to help future Habitat homeowners build decent and affordable places to live.

“I think the AmeriCorps program really sets itself up well for something like Build-a-Thon. For the past year, you’ve been training people who lead and communicate and do that very effectively,” he says. “Having folks like that run a construction site under the guidance of very good site supervisors — it makes something like the Build-a-Thon possible.”

T.J.’s next steps will take him far away from Philadelphia, but will share that familiar theme of service and go back to his architecture roots. The 25-year-old will travel to Kigali, Rwanda, to work as a global health corps fellow and design associate with Mass Design Group.

It was Habitat AmeriCorps, he says, that gave him the chance to learn more about himself.

“My biggest takeaway from AmeriCorps — and the reason I did two years — was there was just a great opportunity to become self-aware,” he says. “I felt really confident that AmeriCorps was a really good place to find what you enjoy and what you are good at, and how that can translate into what you care about and your passion.”