Fellow Story: Brenner Burkholder

“There are so many opportunities and so many interest groups. I was not prepared for the level of unique things happening here.” -Brenner Burkholder

Brenner Burkholder, a native of Topeka, KS, completed his undergraduate degree at Goshen College with a major in Environmental Science. During his time in school, he was heavily involved in research, participating in research at both Goshen College and in the Citizen Science GIS Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of Central Florida. At Goshen, he was a member of the Cross Country and Track and Field teams, a tutor, a member of the Symphony Orchestra and All-Campus Band, and an advocates team leader for LGBTQIA+ advocacy.  In his free time, Brenner enjoys endurance sports and reading.  He is a part of the East End cohort, and is serving at Plant Five for Life.

Renee Toney: What has been the most valuable part of the PULSE experience so far?

Brenner Burkholder: It fosters my ability to explore my interests where I get to witness a lot of young people doing exciting things – trying new things out.

Renee: Tell me something you are learning about yourself through PULSE.

Brenner: In the past I neglected to take care of myself as a whole. Now, I am learning how important it is since I serve 9 – 5 and only have evenings free.

Renee: What do you enjoy most about your nonprofit partnership?

Brenner: I enjoy the level of responsibility I have been given. I have the opportunity to give a lot of input and my voice in the organization has a lot of weight. While it’s been hard adjusting to all the different hats I have to wear, this opportunity has helped me grow and gain new skills.

Renee: What have you enjoyed most about living in community?

Brenner: I enjoyed living in community in college. But I am enjoying the challenge of living with people who I have met at the beginning of my PULSE year. I’ve been learning how to better accommodate personalities and preferences in a way that everyone can coexist. It has been a joy to collectively help each other live our best lives.

Renee: Describe a typical day at your nonprofit partnership.

Brenner: I commute to my partnership on my bicycle. Since I serve in a co-working space, I would grab some coffee and chat with my supervisor and the other people in the office. I’ll usually answer emails then proceed with my tasks for the day. Lately, that’s been conducting research for potential grants. We also do events, which involves a lot of planning, coordinating volunteers, picking up supplies and coordinating with sites. No day is typical though, so I do a wide range of things.

Renee: What surprised you most about Pittsburgh?

Brenner: The scope of what is happening in Pittsburgh. There are so many opportunities and so many interest groups. I was not prepared for the level of unique things happening here.

Renee: What is the most interesting/fun adventure you’ve had in Pittsburgh so far?

Brenner: I ran a 50k stair challenge traversing the sides of Pittsburgh. I enjoyed seeing all the views of the city from different high points. I was able to explore cool atmospheres of the different neighborhoods; I had a lot of fun exploring areas of the city I had never seen, like the Emerald View trail and West End. In the last hour of the run, a Steelers games was occurring, and it was fun to watch tailgaters as I went east through the northside neighborhoods. It was astonishing to see so many different neighborhoods and cultures in just a few hours of running around the city.

Renee: What’s your favorite “family meal” recipe for the house?

Brenner: Anything involving a crockpot or pressure cooker excites me – everything stews together and it’s not much work – also anything with squash or curry excited me.


Story by PULSE Fellow Renee Toney.

Read more Fellow Stories about their experience in PULSE. If you would like to learn more about the PULSE program, please visit our Serve with Us page.

Also, check out other Stories of Transformation: