A recent visitor to Isaac E. Young Middle School gave students a first-hand account of events seen in a major motion picture.
Edward P. Dancy, 88, of New Rochelle, was an airplane mechanic for the Tuskegee Airmen.
The story of the Tuskegee Airmen was portrayed in Red Tails, a 2012 film starring, among others, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard.
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black aviators in the U.S. Air Force. With the military totally segregated at the time, the airmen were subjected to racial discrimination both on base and off.
The eighth grade class at Isaac Young attended a special screening of Red Tails at the in New Roc City before coming back to school for an assembly where Dancy spoke to them.
Dancy said the film was fairly accurate in its portrayal of the fighter pilots.
"There were a lot of consultants, ex-flyers, who worked on the film," he said.
"I wanted to give the students a part of history," Dancy said, "to give them some hands-on experience."
Daniel Gonzales, the school's administrative dean, said the story of the Tuskegee Airmen was part of the eighth-grade curriculum.
"To have a legend living in our own backyard was amazing," he said, and Dancy was invited to speak to the students.
Dancy said there were a lot of impediments placed before him and his fellow soldiers from all levels in the military, from the top to the bottom.
"There was general prejudice," Dancy said. "Sadly to say, it's alive and well today."
He and his colleagues proved they could handle the tasks put before them, with race having nothing to do with it.
His lesson to the students was simple: "Don't count experience out because of race."
"We have the same aspirations, qualities and talents," Dancy said.
Christina Faust, 13, said the movie was packed with strong emotion.
It was "pretty cool" to have Dancy speak to the eighth grade, she said.
"We are able to see the historical side of the story," Faust said.
Arielle Delgado, 13, said the experience of having someone from that past age talk to them was a unique experience.
"It was incredible," she said. "Yeah."
William Roberts, 14, thought the movie and Dancy's talk were really good.
He was struck by the fact, related by the Tuskegee mechanic, that information about their involvement in the war was a secret for many years.
"It was interesting to know it was kept quiet for a long time," Roberts said.