NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WVEC) -- When a living legend walked into their classroom, thoughts raced through these students' minds.
"He's brave, strong minded," said one student. "He fought through a lot of things and shows a lot of determination.
Standing tall in his iconic red jacket, 91-year-old Harry Quinton shared his experience of being a Tuskegee Airmen to a room full of students at Woodside High School.
"I try to give them whatever advice I can, and tell them about my experience," Quinton explained. "In a way, I'm kind of reliving my old youth."
It's part of a "life-skills empowerment" mentorship program from Brothers On the Block, a non-profit that helps mentor young people in Hampton Roads.
Quinton is an original member of the Tuskegee Airmen. He served as an airplane mechanic in the 477th Bombardment Group during World War II.
He told the students about being subject to Jim Crow laws even though he was fighting in the war. Quinton said it was tough, but he knew he had to fight through it.
That message was passed along to Tyere Tyler and Larius Gwen. Both high school seniors with plans to join the military.
"It's a good experience to hear lessons from someone who actually lived it."
Quinton knows this generation faces a different set of challenges, but he believes they can use the same principles he did to overcome them.
"I couldn't afford to be one of the ordinary guys and do what everyone else was doing," Quinton said. "That's what I strived for."
© 2017 WVEC-TV