Vice President Kamala Harris stopped by RN Harris Elementary School on Wednesday as her team carried out security checks during their visit to Durham. The fact that she and the school shared the same last name was just a coincidence.
Harris first passed the school in her motorcade before her morning speech at Durham Technical Community College and saw the children outside watching her.
“Durham Tech security called and said the Secret Service wanted to talk to me. And I said ‘I’m sorry, who?’ Principal Mshinda Middleton-Brown joked, “Then I remembered Vice President Harris was coming to town and they were calling to secure the perimeter.”
Brown asked if Harris could come and read to his students since they were already celebrating Dr. Seuss’ (Theodor Seuss Geisel) birthday on the same day. Although it couldn’t be arranged, she was told that the students could wave to the vice president when she passed.
Middleton-Brown said Harris was so “constrained” by her students that she decided to return to visit staff and students later that afternoon.
According to Middleton-Brown, Harris Elementary has more than 300 students in kindergarten through 5th grade. She alerted her students that morning that they might see the vice president and say hello.
So early that morning, the students lined up behind a wide fence on the school grounds and waited for the vice president to pass.
“I asked our art teacher to sign the night before. We had our pom poms on and we were cheering. And we were all so excited,” Middleton-Brown said. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and for her to host us was just amazing.”
After driving past the school, a member of the Secret Service called Brown again and said the Vice President was “so moved by the outpouring of love from the children” that she was stopping to see them from close and greet them.
This time, Harris got out of her car and walked the students up to the fence. She spoke to them and some of them were able to shake her hand.
Harris told the students that their teachers are the “best” and that she still remembers her first-grade teacher.
“I wanted to pass because I had heard of all the smart students who studied here… And you know what? Your teachers are the best,” Harris said. “Do you know that I went to law school and my freshman teacher came to my graduation? That’s the role our teachers play in our lives.”
Middleton-Brown told The News & Observer that the day before Harris visited she was more “excited than nervous”. She just wanted everything to be “perfect” – including her outfit.
Both Middleton-Brown and Harris are members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. It is the first historically African-American intercollegiate sorority, and members of the Greek organization often wear pearls and pink and green.
So when Middleton-Brown saw a green skirt in a store, she knew exactly which of her shoes and pearls she would wear to go with it.
“At first I thought I’d wear my Chucks [Chuck Taylor sneakers] and my pearls because she’s known for wearing her Chucks,” Middleton-Brown said. “And then I thought, I have to be me.
“I came across this green leather skirt, I knew I had the perfect green jumper to go with my green coat and AKA three-strand pearls – and I knew just what I was going to wear for Vice President. ,” Middleton-Brown added.
About 97% of Harris Elementary students receive free and discounted lunch. But Middleton-Brown said her students were so “brilliant” and her school culture was not defined by labels.
“They [the students] understood the meaning of this moment. They knew they were in the presence of the first black female vice president,” Middleton-Brown said.
“They saw what their future could look like by meeting her. And she [Harris] told me she remembered being like them.
This story was originally published March 3, 2022 7:57 p.m.