Tanya Christian of Essence explores Sen. Kamala Harris‘ childhood dream of attending Howard University and shares her story:

When Kamala Harris enters the halls of Capitol Hill, Howard University goes with her. It’s impossible to separate the prominent policymaker from the institution that helped define her career. The place that nurtured her into the woman she is today. 

Before she ever ran for the district attorney of San Francisco, the Attorney General of California, a U.S. Senate seat or the president of the United States, a 17-year-old Harris, ran a successful campaign for the title of freshman class representative of Howard’s liberal arts student council. “That was my first run for public office,” Harris tells ESSENCE of her foray into elected leadership. “And when you run for public office at Howard University, you can run for office anywhere.”

Harris quickly learned that the competitive instinct of her college peers was “no joke,” but it was still important for her to hit Howard’s gates running. In addition to serving on the student council, she sparred on the debate team, chaired the economics society and pledged the Alpha chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

“My aunt Chris, who was the one who really had a big influence on me was an AKA and pledged at Howard,” Harris reveals. “So it was just very natural for me to want to end up pledging in the sorority which I feel really rounded out my experience. It’s a sisterhood that lasts till today.”

Though Howard was on the opposite side of the country from her Bay Area upbringing, the Senator from California contests that it was so similar to the world she had come to know. “I grew up in a community that was, in part, about civil rights, that had a whole piece about the revolution, and collectively it taught me about the nuances of the diaspora.” While still a candidate for president, she’d often say that she spent most of her childhood surrounded by adults who spent their full time “marching and shouting for this thing called justice.” The daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father explains that those years prepared her to learn from students who were from all across The Continent, the Caribbean, and different pockets of the United States. “Some of my closest friends were from Detroit and Jersey, the South Side of Chicago. And it was about us coming together and teaching each other new things.” 

While Harris’ upbringing laid the foundation for her to spread her wings at Howard, it was her experience at the HBCU that taught her how to soar. She maintains that the years she spent on the D.C. campus developed her for the role she’d play in life and helped her create the identity she would eventually present to the world. Read the full article.