Montreal

Kamala Harris joins Democratic presidential race, 40 years after graduating from Westmount High

Vowing to "bring our voices together," the California senator aims to become the first woman and the second African-American to hold the presidency.

'A shining light,' former classmate Dean Smith says of his old schoolmate

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, a former California attorney general, announced Monday she's joining the Democratic presidential race. Harris attended high school at Montreal's Westmount High. (Sait Serkan Gurbuz/Associated Press)

United States Senator Kamala Harris, a former California attorney general, announced Monday she's joining the Democratic presidential race — almost 40 years after she graduated from Westmount High School.

Vowing to "bring our voices together," Harris, 54, known for her rigorous questioning of President Donald Trump's nominees, aims to become the first woman and the second African-American to hold the presidency.

For five years, from Grade 7 to Grade 11, Harris attended high school in Montreal.

"She was a good person," said former classmate Dean Smith. "Always smiling, friendly. A shining light the whole time."

He said when they were in school together, the high school was becoming increasingly multicultural. Since both are people of colour, he said they latched onto one another.

Dean Smith, a former classmate of Kamala Harris's at Westmount High School, says he can see the influence the city had on Harris through her politics. 'Montreal is a type of city where you've got all different races and backgrounds and genders: they're all accepted here,' he said. (Radio-Canada)

"When she came here, she blended right in with us," Smith said.

Harris, whose father is a Jamaican-born Stanford University economics professor, was born in Oakland, Calif.

Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a breast-cancer scientist originally from Chennai, India, brought Harris and her sister Maya to Montreal in the 1970s when she took a job teaching at McGill University and doing research at the Jewish General Hospital. 

Smith says he can see the influence the city had on Harris through her politics.

"Montreal is a type of city where you've got all different races and backgrounds and genders; they're all accepted here," Smith said. "So for her to be a Democrat, that's right up her alley."

Kamala Harris attended Westmount High School in Montreal for five years, while her mother, a breast cancer scientist, worked as a researcher at the Jewish General Hospital and taught at McGill University. (CBC)

He says he's extremely proud of Harris and to have known her.

"Sooner or later, they're going to have to have a female as president," Smith said. "Just like they had Obama, they can have a black female president."

'It could be any of us'

Students currently attending Westmount High say they are excited and inspired to have an alumna in the running for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"It shows what kind of people go [to this school]," said Merle Ibelings, a student at Westmount High.

Merle Ibelings, a student at Westmount High, says she is excited and inspired to see an alumna of her school in the running for the U.S. presidency. (CBC)

She said it's an inspiration to see a woman in the running for a senior position in politics.

"The chance of that happening is so small. It could be any of us," said Ibelings, who wants to go into politics some day.

With files from Jessica Rubinger

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