NEW YORK — – Media mogul and criminal defendant Sean "Puffy" Combs scored big with New York City's Board of Education officials yesterday — he donated 100 computers to a Harlem school and was praised as a role model.
Manhattan School Superintendent Thelma Baxter introduced the rap-music mogul — who is awaiting trial on gun charges stemming from a Times Square club shooting — as a successful showman who pulled himself up out of the inner city.
"He's a music entrepreneur, owner of several restaurants, a Howard University student from Harlem who rose through the ranks and educated himself and continues to give back," said Baxter, who gave the music star a big hug and kiss.
Combs, who attended Howard for two years, told several hundred Harlem kids packing the auditorium of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Academy that hard work pays off.
"Computers give you a chance to learn and communicate," said Combs. "Take it seriously."
"There is a whole world to explore," Combs said while introducing his new partner, Hookt.com — a hip-hop entertainment Web site where the rapper's music and designer clothes will be sold.
"These kids don't have computers, and being from Harlem, it's my responsibility to even out the playing field," he said. "I'm promoting computer literacy. It's for the kids. It's not a promotional tool and it's not a one-time thing."
School officials had no qualms giving kudos to the controversial rap star.
"Artists since ancient Greece have had many sides to them and today we focused on the philanthropic quality of Mr. Combs," said Jonathan Levi, assistant to the chancellor.
Combs — who dazzled the middle-school kids who clamored for his autograph — told reporters he sees himself as a good example.
"I see myself as a role model and individual," adding, that children can "learn from my successes and downfalls."