03/23/09 — Elementary students see successful 'men of color'

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Elementary students see successful 'men of color'

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 23, 2009 1:46 PM

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Percy Arrington, retired chief cameraman for NBC News, shares photos with Doris Hopes' third-grade class at Carver Heights Elementary School during "Men of Color" Day at the school.

Percy Arrington, former chief cameraman for NBC News, spent 30 years of his career covering the White House, working with six presidents -- from Gerald Ford to George W. Bush.

On Friday, he could be found taking snapshots of third-grade students in Doris Hopes' class at Carver Heights Elementary School after delivering a speech.

He was one of 25 successful men participating in "Men of Color Day" at the school. This is the second year for the event, providing insights into the men's careers and their path to success.

Arrington is from Rocky Mount and graduated from Fayetteville State University. He was briefly a school teacher before other opportunities presented themselves.

Standing in front of the classroom, he shared some of his experiences and passed around photos of different presidents, as well as such White House visitors as Michael Jackson.

"Were you friends with Michael Jackson?" asked one student.

"Which president impressed you the most?" another student asked.

"Being with them all the time, I was friendly with all of them. All of them called me by name," Arrington said. "I guess I was most impressed with President Clinton because the other presidents, I could always figure them out. But with Mr. Clinton, he always did stuff that wasn't according to the rules -- he'd be in front of you and then all of a sudden, he would be in the crowd."

He produced a "flight certificate" Clinton gave him from Air Force One, the presidential plane.

"It showed that you are the guest of the president of the United States," he explained.

And on Friday, it was his turn to encourage youngsters to aim just as high.

"You all know you can be anything you want to be, right?" he asked. As shouts of "yes" filled the air, he explained that while "nothing comes easy," honesty and good hard work can accomplish a lot.

"I can say, everything that I wanted when I was a kid, I got," he said. "I have never been to jail, never been arrested. I did it the hard way."

It was his first time speaking before a group of elementary school students, he said.

"It means a lot," he said. "I see kids today that are wasting their time, so any opportunity that I have that maybe I can talk to them, show them the hardship that I went through, tell them that they can make it, all they have to do is try. ... I hope that it rubs off on them."

Among the others participating in the event were Danny King, executive director and founder of ADLA Structured Day; Junius Shealy, director of Wade Edwards Learning Lab; Neal Stitt, retired educator; Julian Stackhaus, formerly with the FBI; Marvin McCoy, retired Army officet and educator, currently assistant superintendent for human resources with Wayne County Public Schools; Donald Faison, retired associate superintendent with WCPS; and Cornelius Williams, who drove Rosa Parks' husband to work and was at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s house after the bombing.