Habitat Chicago's Homebuyer University is in full swing, and our students have been learning the in's and out's of the homebuying process. A big part of what makes this program effective is our incredible team of volunteer instructors, who are experts in a variety of fields within the housing industry. Keep reading to learn more about our instructors, why they volunteer, and why they think Homebuyer University is so valuable for first-time homebuyers.



John Borthwick

Senior Housing and Financial Counselor
Great Lakes Credit Union

Homebuyer University Volunteer Instructor, John Borthwick


What is your professional experience related to housing? 

After moving to Chicago in 2010 and working as a rough framer for a small construction company, I went back to school for a public policy degree. I became more interested in housing, equity, and generational wealth. I got a job as a HUD housing counselor, where I help clients on rental, credit, pre-purchase, post-purchase, and foreclosure counseling.  


Why do you volunteer with Homebuyer University?

About a year ago, I had a client who was working with Habitat for Humanity come to counseling, and they ended up recommending me as a resource to Habitat Chicago. Now I love having the opportunity to work with Habitat clients and volunteer for the workshops at Homebuyer University. I am really passionate about financial education, especially talking with homebuyers about how to be safe and make goals happen. 


If you had just one free hour to spend in Chicago, what would you do? 

I love the Chicago Art Institute. I’ve gone there year after year, and I never get tired of it. I especially love the impressionism section and usually head there first every time I go.   


How do you like to spend your time on Saturday mornings when you are not volunteering? 

In my leisure time I love reading, watching movies, and playing video games with my wife. I mostly read non-fiction these days but really love a pretty wide variety of subjects. I can talk books all day.



Maria Campos

Senior Housing Counselor and Financial Coach
Center for Changing Lives

Homebuyer University Volunteer Instructor, Maria Campos


What is your professional experience related to housing? 

I started my housing professional journey 9 years ago. As we overcame the economic foreclosure crisis, I joined forces with local community agencies that led me to begin my journey as housing counselor and financial coach. During my journey, I have had the privilege to serve low to moderate income households experiencing foreclosure, rental eviction, financial instability, credit wellness, and homeownership counseling. My career has allowed me to grow – focusing my strengths on homeownership programming management and implementation.


Why do you volunteer with Homebuyer University? 

Homebuying is such an exciting, yet complicated process to navigate. I am a true believer that together, we can make it easier to access resources that offer equal opportunity. I am honored to be part of Homebuyer University and the collective effort to create educated buyers in their journey to affordable and sustainable homeownership.


What is one piece of advice you have for future homeowners?

One piece of advice I would give to a new buyer is to become familiar with terminology, financing options, property taxes, and set realistic expectations. This is a transaction that requires time, savings, and planning. Use the tools created for you, visit www.hud.gov and www.consumerfinance.gov, and rely on your homebuyer team (i.e. HUD-Certified Housing Counselor, Real Estate Broker, and others).


If you had just one free hour to spend in Chicago, what would you do? 

Although I currently reside in the suburban area, I hold the Little Village dear to my heart, I would take a walk down 26th St. to reconnect with my roots, the culture, artwork, and of course make a taco run at my favorite restaurant: Los Gallos.


Jerome Harper

Founder | Broker Associate
The J. Harper Group
Baird & Warner South Loop 

Homebuyer University Volunteer Instructor, Jerome Harper


Why do you volunteer with Homebuyer University? 

I find the mission to be well aligned with my personal ethos. Being an instructor allows me to impart my knowledge of real estate to participants seeking to build wealth and purchase their own home. 


What are some the benefits of participating in Homebuyer University, especially from the perspective of your particular field? 

The language of buying a home and the process can be intimidating to a first-time buyer. Homebuyer University has a well-developed curriculum that makes the process more accessible. 

As a real estate broker, I’m able to share my own experiences and those of my clients. It is also an opportunity for me to educate buyers on the Fair Housing Act, which is immensely important.


What is one piece of advice you have for future homeowners? 

Buying a home is an emotional experience for many. My advice is to lean into the emotional side of the process while staying focused on the business of the transaction. Finding a professional that can address both of these needs is very important. 


How do you like to spend your time on Saturday mornings when you are not volunteering? 

Some people are surprised to learn that I am a gamer! I enjoy playing PlayStation online with friends around the world on most Saturday mornings. After a few rounds, it is usually time to meet with clients to help them find their first or next purchase! 



Jason Mitchell

Loan Originator
Wintrust Mortgage

Homebuyer University Volunteer Instructor, Jason Mitchell


What is your professional experience related to housing? 

I’ve been in the mortgage industry for over 10 years, with a wide range of experience in operations prior to becoming a Mortgage Loan Originator about 4 years ago.  


Why do you volunteer with Homebuyer University?  

I LOVE empowering people to believe that all things are possible. Homeownership is very attainable, and when you have a team willing to educate you on the process, it makes the journey so much better. I’m honored to volunteer and make the dream of homeownership a reality for people.  


What is one thing you wish you knew about owning a home before you purchased it?  

I really didn’t think about the fact that things break and then someone has to repair them. This costs money, and you have to be prepared for these small inconveniences as a homeowner.  


If you had just one free hour to spend in Chicago, what would you do?  

I would totally bring a lawn chair and listen to some great music at Pritzker Pavilion.



Millie Reyes-Williams, MBA

Vice-President | CRA Relationship Manager 
Community Reinvestment 
BMO Harris Bank N.A.

Homebuyer University Volunteer Instructor, Millie Reyes-Williams


What is your professional experience related to housing? 

Currently, I am a CRA Relationship Manager with BMO Harris Bank. I have been in the mortgage lending world since the mid 1980’s. I have held several positions and titles from small business owner, trainer, processor, loan officer, underwriter, and now relationship manager. 


Why do you volunteer with Homebuyer University? 

I have been a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity since 1999 in several capacities, on several committees and a Board position. I was very excited when I learned BMO Harris Bank and Habitat Chicago formed a partnership to support Homebuyer University. I am thankful that BMO Harris Bank has provided me the opportunity to volunteer and do what I love, which is helping to empower future homebuyers. 


What is one thing you wish you knew about owning a home before you purchased it? 

Tips on cost-effective measures on how to maintain a home, such as insulating your home for the winter.


If you had just one free hour to spend in Chicago, what would you do?   

One free hour…hmmm. Depends on the weather… I would like to combine eating, art, water, and learning – such as lunch at the lakefront or an arts/book festival. 



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