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Montreal a key part of Kamala Harris’ political journey, says former classmate

Last Updated Jan 18, 2021 at 9:13 pm EDT

MONTREAL (CITYNEWS) – Kamala Harris’ journey to the White House may have begun at the small Montreal high school where she graduated.

The 56-year-old, who became the first woman and first person of colour elected vice-president of the United States, lived briefly in Montreal.

She attended Westmount High School for three years and graduated in 1981. There, she met and became friends with Wanda Kagan.

Kagan says Harris changed her life as a teenager. After finding out Kagan was experiencing abuse at home, the future politician asked her friend to stay with her at home.

“She called me a while back and said, ‘you know you’re the reason that I chose the path that I did. My career choice to go into fighting for women and children of sexual assault, having gone through what I went through with you,’” said Kagan.

Now the two friends exchange the occasional text message. Kagan says she was so thrilled to see Harris elected vice-president of the U.S.

“Not many people can say I lived with the vice-president of the United States,” said Kagan. “And she fought for my rights, my dignity. And you know, I may not be the person I am today had she not helped that path, way back then.”

Kagan says the environment at Westmount High School can partly explain Harris’ success.

“It was a very disciplined and studious environment,” she said. “And you say to yourself, people who have those kinds of roots and background, they’re bound to be successful. But nobody expects success to this level.”

**WATCH: CityNews Montreal story from January 2019**

Students and staff at Harris’ former high school were glowing with pride when news broke of the Democrats’ election victory on Saturday.

“It’s kind of sinking in now that she was in this building and she hung out in the art room at lunch and she was part of the dance troupe,” said Matthew Shapiro, vice-principal at Westmount High School. “And she said in an interview that she got interested in law, and that’s a huge testament to this school and the power of this city.”