Deesha Dyer got the internship that led to her current job as social secretary of the White House and special assistant to the president when she was a student at the Community College of Philadelphia.
In fact, the White House offered Dyer a full-time job while she was still in school "with the caveat that I finish school," Dyer told community college graduates Saturday when she served as commencement speaker.
"They asked me to send my resume, and I was very scared because I thought that once senior officials saw I dropped (out) of college, and was a 31-year-old community college student, they definitely wouldn't hire me," she said, according to a copy of her speech. "Well in 2010, they did…Two years after working in the White House and taking online CCP classes… I finished in 2012 with an associate's in women's studies."
Dyer, a Philadelphia native, has declined press interviews, but her speech offered a glimpse into the life of the White House's chief social planner.
"The President and First Lady believe in opening the White House to everyone," said Dyer, whose family attended the ceremony. "My awesome team is responsible for planning, coordination and execution of all the social events at the White House.
"This includes musical events like the recent concerts with Usher, Aretha Franklin and Sting; to visits with foreign leaders, the Pope."
She also told graduates about the first time she flew on Air Force One.
"The president turned the corner to where I was sitting just as I put a paper napkin with the presidential seal in my purse," she said, drawing laughs.
Dyer was raised in Philadelphia and attended the Milton Hershey School. After graduation, she went to the University of Cincinnati, but dropped out after two semesters.
She worked various jobs as a secretary and freelance hip-hop journalist and began mentoring young girls in Philadelphia.
"I always felt like a hypocrite stressing to them that they needed to go to college - no matter what," she told the crowd.
So she enrolled at community college, part-time. She interned at the White House in 2009 and began working there full time in 2010. When she received the promotion to her current position last spring, President Obama said in a statement: "Deesha shares our commitment to a White House that reflects America's history, highlights our culture, and celebrates all Americans. Michelle and I look forward to working with her in this new role as we welcome visitors from across the country and around the world to the People's House."
Dyer said Michelle Obama became her role model and that she does a fitness routine with her. Michelle Obama also issued a glowing statement about Dyer when she was promoted.
"From the day Deesha started in the Social Office nearly two years ago, she impressed me with her passion, creativity, public-mindedness and relentless competence. Since then, whether helping flawlessly execute state dinners, or going the extra mile to open the White House to people who never dreamed they would walk through these doors, Deesha has worked tirelessly to truly make the White House the "People's House." I am thrilled that she has agreed to continue her service as our Social Secretary."
Dyer credited the community college for contributing to her success.
"Without my CCP experience, I can honestly say that there would not be Deesha Dyer, the White House Social Secretary."
For more information on commencement speakers at area colleges, check out our package: http://www.philly.com/philly/education/Commencement_speakers_2016.html