As a kid in privileged Beverly Hills, Steve Fenton loved baseball. So did Carter Paysinger, growing up in South Central Los Angeles, where privilege was a foreign word.
But all that changed when Carter’s mom arranged enrollment for her teenaged son in the mostly white Beverly Hills High School.
"I had to prove to everybody that I belonged,” Paysinger told ABC News.
He did. So impressive in sports that after college, Carter was hired by Beverly Hills High as a coach, a teacher, and as it turns out, a mentor for local students like Steven Fenton.
When asked what Paysinger remembers about Fenton when he first came to school, he replied, “An intense, determined, passionate young kid who wanted to prove that he belonged. That reminded me of me.”
Nearly 20 years later they not only stayed friends, but Fenton joined the school board and convinced other members that Paysinger should be principal of Beverly Hills High.
"The best thing for the school was for Carter to lead it,” Fenton explained.
"In my heart I was thinking, you know, ‘I’m not sure if the city of Beverly Hills would really embrace an African American principal,’” Paysinger recalled. “But I had the determination to do it, and I knew Steven had the determination to do it. This was about turning our school around for the better.”
Some parents were concerned.
“There are going to be some people that don’t like me because I’m African American,” said Paysinger. “But that’s not my problem. That’s their problem.”
Paysinger became the first African American principal in the school's 80-year history, and with him at the helm, the school produced the highest test scores it had ever seen, “and the climate of the entire campus changed,” he said.
Paysinger and Fenton’s remarkable story of high school buddies from different worlds beating the odds is now a book, “Where a Man Stands."
“We felt that this book was going to really inspire people to stand up,” said Fenton. “Carter and I, two ordinary people, willing to do something extraordinary.”
People that know the dynamic duo jokingly refer to them as a “multiracial bromance.”
“We’re a generation apart, but we’re still so much alike,” said Paysinger.
“I am so proud of him. He made it happen,” Fenton added, looking at the sign on Paysinger’s office door that reads “Principal.”
“Well, we made it happen. We made it happen,” Paysinger replied.