Brandon Pugh, senior Political Science major, was elected to his hometown's Board of Education at 19 and is now the President of the Burlington Count School Boards Association. He even owns a business with his father that helps train government officials in homeland security.
“Tell me about some of the jobs you have had. And what’s going on for you now?”
“I’m only taking one class this semester; I own my own company. It’s called ACT – American Consulting and Training. We are a public safety and homeland security firm. We do training for several federal agencies – and we’ll train first responders on a variety of topics.”
“How did you get to the point where you own a company as an undergraduate college student?”
“I initially got involved in emergency management when I worked for [Governor Christie] in volunteerism. I was a coordinator in the Governor’s Office of Volunteerism – they work with all the non-profits, non-governmental organizations in the state. I was reaching out to the youth and college populations in the state.
I did that after high school full-time, then when Hurricane Irene came, our staff was put on emergency management. That’s where I developed a passion for it.”
Brandon shared the story of how he impressively landed a job working for the state straight out of high school. He had gone to a conference on volunteerism in N.J. and was surprised to see that he was the only member in attendance “under 50 years old.”
“I was kind of upset about that. So I wrote a letter to [Governor Christie] not expecting to hear back and sure enough I got a response,” Brandon said. He took a gap year before starting at TCNJ and worked on the Governor’s Advisory Council on Volunteerism in a “non-official capacity” — he was recently appointed to be an official member.
“We promote volunteers and volunteerism state-wide.” In that year Brandon worked specifically with colleges across the state to promote community service as well as help prepare individuals and organizations for emergencies such as Hurricane Irene.
“How did that position translate into owning your own homeland security business?”
“When I was in that position [after high school[, I was fortunate to take a ton of courses for free through homeland security. I took 50 courses around the country and before I knew it I became one of the specialists for the [U.S. Department of Homeland Security]. I hold a designation that only 300 people have been given in the last 8 years.”
In March 2015, Brandon obtained the prestigious title of “Master of Continuity Practitioner,” which had required him to do research and in-field work for the Department throughout his college career.
“I started company right before I came to TCNJ,” Brandon said, who used is work at the Governor’s office as a springboard into teaching emergency management. Soon after Brandon came up with the idea, his father joined the task, having recently left a career in law enforcement. “We’re a federally recognized contracting firm, so we can bid on government contracts.”
“I’m not good at many things in life, but keeping busy is one of the few things I can say I’m good at,” he added with a smile.
“What are some other things that you’re good at?”
After being elected to an empty seat on Moorestown’s Board of Education at 19, gaining the respect of his colleagues, he received the post as President of Burlington County’s School Boards Association in March 2014. BCSBA is a “quasi-government” agency and having the presidency gives Brandon the power to “speak on behalf of the districts of [Burlington County].”
“What aspirations do you have for the future? What’s the next step for you after these successes?“
“Ideally I want to do National Security law. It’s a very small legal field, but I know that’s the type of law I want to do.”
“How do you think these experiences have changed you?”
“One of the challenges but one of the goods things is that [I have learned] to work with others. We have 9 people on the school board – often times that’s 9 totally different opinions. If you want to get anything done, you have to work with one another.
Going forward, that is a skill I’ll use for the rest of my life.”
“What is some advice you’ve gotten in an informal setting that has transformed you?”
“If you’re the right person for the job, you’re going to get elected,” Brandon said of advice he got from a colleague when running for the Board of Ed. “Not everyone’s going to like you. You’re always going to have people who critique you. But if it’s something that you want, continue to seek it regardless.”
“Why is today inspiring to you?”
“Something very few people know about is that I was told by doctors I would never speak in my life. I was told that I would either have to live with my parents the rest of my life or be institutionalized.
To now be able to speak, to communicate, serve in elected office, graduate from TCNJ – I’m not going to let anything else stop me now.”
Brandon, pictured below, was also interviewed as a featured student for the Class of 2016 about why he chose TCNJ.
— Story and Interview by Jack Meyers
— Photography by Jaryd Frankel and courtesy of TCNJ Video.