President Obama is traveling to Watertown, South Dakota on Friday to deliver the commencement address at Lake Area Technical Institute — one of the nation's top community colleges. While congratulating the graduating class, the President will also discuss his plan to make community college free for students who keep their grades up.
From students just out of high school to those returning to the classroom for more training or a career change, community college students make up 40 percent of the Americans enrolled in higher education. The President’s plan is projected to benefit around 9 million students each year and save the average full-time community college student $3,800 a year in tuition expenses.
Here at the White House, we understand the impact that community colleges are having on students throughout the country. On National College Signing Day, three White House staffers shared their story of attending community college and credited their schools with helping them reach their full potential.
Meet these three White House staffers:
Returning to school at the age of 29 and with the hope of starting over, White House Social Secretary Deesha Dyer attended the Community College of Philadelphia long before she thought that a job at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was a possibility.
Dyer says that community college opened doors and gave her the confidence to continue moving forward with her studies and eventually apply to the White House internship program — something she didn’t know existed prior to enrolling in community college. Now working for the President and First Lady, Dyer says community college needs to be available to more students.
“I believe that education in America is something that is a freedom to the future and kids coming from any kind of background should be able to get an education.”
Listen to her full interview:
Wishing to continue his education right out of high school, James Gleeson attended Arapahoe Community College in Littleton, Colorado. He says attending community college gave him an environment conducive to learning — from instructors making themselves available for office hours, to opportunities to explore new and different types of assignments.
“And it was in that kind of atmosphere at a community college that I got the attention and the engagement that kind of pushed me to want to continue to go to class, to go back to class the next day, to get my degree."
Moving to the East Coast, Gleeson now goes to work each day as the communications director for a community college English teacher — who happens to also be the Vice President’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden.
Listen to his full interview:
For students wondering if community college is the right decision, Crystal Carson says, “just do it.” And as a graduate of Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, North Carolina who now serves as the Assistant to the White House Director of Communications, Carson knows her fair share about community college.
She says that her time at Central Piedmont opened her mind to different opportunities and acted as a gateway to a variety of fields. She also notes that going to a community college didn’t put her at any disadvantage compared to anyone else at the White House.
“The support systems and the teachers, resources, all of the things that you can get at a community college are similar and if not better than any university that you could go to.”
Listen to her full interview:
Be sure to tune in on Friday as President Obama delivers the commencement address at Lake Area Technical Institute. Also, join the conversation by sharing your thoughts on the President’s community college proposal to make two years of community college free for responsible students across America.