- Associated Press - Saturday, June 4, 2016

PAHOKEE, Fla. (AP) - At 10 years old, he became an international sensation for interviewing Joe Biden and declaring that the then-vice presidential nominee was “now my homeboy.”

The pint-sized TV reporter, in newscasts for his Palm Beach County elementary school, landed one-on-ones with Oprah, Dwyane Wade and, fulfilling a personal dream, President Barack Obama.

Now, kid reporter Damon Weaver is all grown up. Nearly seven years after the boy from Pahokee became the youngest person to interview a sitting president, he walked across the stage Monday in a cap and gown. He starts college this fall.

“It’s the moment that I’ve been waiting a long time for,” said the 18-year-old, who attends Royal Palm Beach High. “And I’m really excited.”

Weaver has had his post-high school days mapped out since fifth grade, when Albany State University offered him a full scholarship after catching his reports for Kathryn E. Cunningham/Canal Point Elementary. He plans to study communications at the Georgia school.

His rise to fame happened at the start of the school year in 2008, when teacher Brian Zimmerman was looking for students to staff the KEC TV news crew. Weaver, a precocious kid with a big personality, signed up.

He made an impression almost immediately.

“Besides being a cute little kid with a great smile, he wasn’t scared of talking to people,” Zimmerman recalled. “He enjoyed talking to people, he wanted to hang out with people. It wasn’t something I could teach him. It was just natural ability.”

When Biden held a campaign event at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, KEC TV got press credentials. Weaver, wearing one of Zimmerman’s ties over his school uniform, asked for an interview with the then-senator - and got one.

In the clip, the 4-foot-tall reporter held a microphone over his head while Biden explained the role of a vice president, putting a hand on his shoulder. It was a hit on YouTube. Soon, Weaver was making the rounds on CNN, ABC and MSNBC and collecting a student broadcasting award.

Getting to Obama took a lot more time and effort. The tiny TV star spent a year trying to trying to score an interview, finding support in Wade, who agreed to play the president in basketball - but stopped short of promising to let him win - if he sat down with Weaver.

His efforts played out in the local and national media.

“It was just a great story: a little African-American boy who wanted to interview the first African-American president,” Zimmerman said. “It just turned into this big, nice, feel-good kind of story.”

Finally, in August 2009, Weaver was summoned to the White House. During a 10-minute interview, he asked the president questions both light-hearted - “Do you have the power to make school lunches better?” - and serious - “What are you going to do to keep kids like me safe?”

Weaver says the interview changed his life, giving him opportunities most other kids don’t have.

“I don’t think my childhood was like any other childhood,” he said. “It was very different because I was doing a lot of mature things, being with a lot of older adults. It was kind of crazy - it’s like I grew up fast. But it was awesome.”

At Albany State, he wants to get involved in TV news. He thinks he wants to pursue a career in reporting - maybe in sports, though he said he thinks all news is interesting.

Lavoise Smith, his elementary school principal, said she believes she’ll see him on a big network someday.

“He knows what he wants to do,” she said. “And he will protect what has been given to him. He wants to make those who care about him proud.”

___

Information from: Sun Sentinel , https://www.sun-sentinel.com/


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