As a junior in high school, Taylor Thompson raised $85,000 and spent 16 straight Saturdays building a Habitat for Humanity house in his hometown of Austin, Texas.
He was working to help single mother Annette Lopez and her daughter, but he was also working to honor his own mother and, in a way, to help himself.
Thompson’s mother, Maureen, died about a year before he built that house after an 11-year battle with breast cancer. Each Saturday he spent on site, the University of Virginia first-year architecture student said, helped him work through his grief.
Maureen Thompson was an accomplished architect who designed the house that Taylor and his two younger sisters grew up in. She often brought her three children to work with her on school holidays, and talked with them about the plans she brought home from the office.
She had also worked on Habitat houses. In fact, one of the houses she designed as a college student was just two blocks from where her son now hammered, drilled and painted each Saturday.
“Being in that space, focused on architecture and Habitat – both things that were very much a part of who my mom was – really helped me,” Thompson said. “For eight hours once a week, I felt really close to my mom again.”
Taylor was 15 when his mother died on Oct. 21, 2014. Though only a sophomore in high school, the longtime Boy Scout had already begun thinking about his Eagle Scout project and knew he wanted to build a Habitat house. He had come up with the idea while talking with his father on an eight-hour road trip, and previously had many conversations with his mom about her own work with Habitat.
In September 2015, he presented his proposal to the local Boy Scout Council. They turned it down, worried that raising the $85,000 needed to build a Habitat house was too ambitious.
Undaunted, Thompson decided to raise the money on his own. The house would not be his Eagle Scout project; it would simply be his tribute to his mom. The Scouts’ refusal, he said, was a blessing in disguise.
“It made me realize and allowed me to do the project solely for the reason I wanted to do it,” Thompson said. “And that was because I loved my mom and wanted to do something to honor her and her memory. I wanted to do something not just mourning the breast cancer, but mourning the mom, the life, the friend, the architect, the person that did things for other people.”
He started fundraising in October 2015, calling up and meeting with people all over Austin. Within a few months, he had the $85,000 he needed, thanks to individual donors and companies like Kendra Scott, Wells Fargo and O’Connell Robertson, his mother’s architecture firm.
By June 2016, Annette Lopez and her 4-year-old daughter were receiving the keys to their brand-new home. Thompson’s involvement with Habitat for Humanity, however, had only just begun.
Read about Thompson's continued involvement with Habitat Global Village Build in Thailand and Carter Works Projects, and how he was certain about his selection of UVA as the perfect fit for his passions through the link below. As his first year draws to a close, Thompson remains sure of his choice. He has enjoyed living in the “old dorms” and getting to know his classmates as vice president of the first-year class, and he loves all of his classes in the School of Architecture. This summer, he will welcome new students to UVA as an orientation leader.