Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump's Homeland Security pick, attended Berkeley Prep

At the private school in Tampa, Nielsen was president of the student governing body and a member of the girls' soccer and cheer teams.
Published October 13 2017
Updated October 13 2017

TAMPA — Kirstjen Nielsen, tapped on Wednesday by President Donald Trump as the next Department of Homeland Security secretary, graduated from Berkeley Prep, the school confirmed.

Jeremy Canody, director of communications at the private school, said Friday that Nielsen attended there from 1987 to 1990. Nielsen, 45, went on to Georgetown and is currently deputy chief of staff with Homeland Security.

At Berkeley Prep, Nielsen was president of the school's student governing body. In a yearbook obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, it notes that under her leadership, the group secured funding for the Student Scholarship Fund.

Photos also show she was on the girls soccer team, which claimed the district championship that year, and the cheer team.

In a speech this week after the announcement, Nielsen said she was humbled by Trump's trust.

"And should I be confirmed, I will with the utmost strength and dedication work every day to protect and secure our homeland," she said.

Former department Secretary Tom Ridge said in a statement from the White House that Nielsen is a Homeland Security veteran who is well-versed in challenges to security, ranging from cybersecurity and terrorism to natural disasters.

"Kirstjen can hit the ground running and there won't be a learning curve," Ridge said. "Most importantly, in this hyper-political environment, Kirstjen is not a self-promoter. She is a patriot and takes a mission-focused approach to her work."

Nielsen was chief of staff to John Kelly when he was Homeland Security secretary, and Kelly brought her into the same role when he became White House chief of staff.

If confirmed by the Senate, Nielsen would replace acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, who was widely criticized for characterizing the federal government's response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico as "a good news story."

Nielsen is the first nominee to have previous experience at Homeland Security. As a young lawyer she drafted legislation and policy at the Transportation Security Administration, then served as a special adviser for emergency preparedness and disaster management under President George W. Bush.

Contact Melissa Gomez at [email protected]