Students at Kamala Harris's Canadian high school inspired by her success

MONTREAL (AFP) – Students at a high school in Canada were glued Wednesday (Jan 20) to coverage of former student Kamala Harris’s inauguration as US Vice-President, saying her achievements would drive them to reach new goals.

Ms Harris, then aged 12, moved to Montreal with her sister Maya in 1976 when their divorced mother relocated the family to pursue her career as a cancer researcher.

From 1978 to 1981, Ms Harris attended Westmount High, which also counts singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen among its alumni.

“I find it so crazy that a woman from this school, my own high school, went and became such a great woman, and now she is the Vice-President of the USA,” a student named Brenda told AFP during celebrations at the school.

Ms Harris – whose father was from Jamaica and mother from India – was an extroverted American teenager who identified as African-American, former classmates told Canadian media.

“I was 12 years old, and the thought of moving away from sunny California in February, in the middle of the school year, to a French-speaking foreign city covered in 12 feet of snow was distressing,” Ms Harris recalled in her memoir.

“My mother tried to make it sound like an adventure, taking us to buy our first down jackets and mittens, as though we were going to be explorers of the great northern winter,” she wrote. “But it was hard for me to see it that way.”

Above the school’s entrance a banner hangs congratulating Ms Harris, “Class of 81,” on her success.

“She is a source of inspiration to all of our students, especially young women, and people who come from different backgrounds,” assistant principal Laetitia Kachmar said.

Students, she said, find it remarkable that Ms Harris “walked the same halls every day and had the same classes” as they do.

“It shows that going to a public school, you can dream big and it can lead to a good career,” she said.

Three students – Olivia, June and Molly, who were taking a short break outside between classes – agreed that Ms Harris is a “great role model” and “empowers the students here.” “She gives hope to the girls at the school and she makes us feel like we can do anything,” Molly said.

“We’re just so proud of her,” Olivia added.

“Good job Kamala Harris!” Brenda cheered on Wednesday, the day Ms Harris became the first Black woman and the first woman of South Asian descent to become US Vice-President.

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