Kamala Harris' school
Before Kamala Harris went to Howard University, she graduated from Westmount High in Montreal. Source: Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP

In the bustling metropolis of Montreal, Canada, one public secondary school celebrated the outcome of the 2020 US Presidential Elections with pride unlike any other. That’s because Westmount High has a special connection to the incoming vice president — it was Kamala Harris’s school back in the 70s and 80s.

Harris moved from California to Quebec in 1976 when her mother, a breast cancer researcher, took up a role at McGill University. Moving to a new country at 12 years old came with its challenges, of course. In her memoir “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey”, Harris recounts, “I used to joke that I felt like a duck, because all day long at our new school I’d be saying, “Quoi? Quoi? Quoi?” (“What? What? What?”)

Though Harris thought moving to a French-speaking foreign city “was distressing, to say the least”, it exposed her to a lively multicultural community. She connected with students from various backgrounds at Westmount High, including her ancestral homelands of Jamaica and India.

Early influence on art and politics

Harris’s teenage years have been widely covered. We know she was into the arts — the New York Times called her a “disco-dancing teenager” — and we’ve witnessed her skills in several viral dance videos from her campaign trail. Westmount art teacher Mara Rudzitis recalls how a young Harris would sometimes spend lunch hour creating in the arts and crafts studio.

School friend Wanda Kagan believes Harris’s progressive ideas bloomed at Westmount High, too. As told to Dan Bilefsky, her policies “were influenced by having come of age in a humanistic country with universal health care and less racial strife than the US.” Other friends remember Harris as a confident teenager with an inclination to advocacy and activism. “When you look back you see certain people who are going to make a big difference in the world — that was Kamala,” former classmate Trevor Williams told CTVNews.ca.

Kamala Harris’ school: ‘Surreal feeling’ after win

Following the Democrat’s win, the institution that was once Kamala Harris’s school broke out into celebration. Students held up signs and notes congratulating the Veep-elect on her achievement, as local reporters asked them what the win meant to them. Westmount High invited Harris to visit her alma mater any time, with a formal invitation from the English Montreal School Board to soon follow.

“It’s a surreal feeling that our public school in Quebec managed to bring out a vice-president into this world,” said student council co-president Aaron Itovitch. “It’s amazing — this means that we aren’t limited. We can do whatever we put our minds to.”