Barrington Irving grew up in an impoverished area of inner city Miami with little hope for his future or knowledge of his personal potential. But, by the age of 23, he became youngest person and only African-American ever to fly solo around the world.
His life was turned around by a chance encounter with a commercial airplane pilot who inspired him to dream big and work with passion. According to Barrington, the pilot also made him “promise to give back to another kid in a similar situation.”
Barrington was not satisfied after influencing the life of just one kid but inspired to continue. He decided to take it even further and has dedicated his career to sharing life-changing encouragement with as many disadvantaged youth as possible. He says, “As a kid growing up in the ghetto, I never thought I’d live very long. I still have a strong sense that every day is precious and I want to accomplish as much as possible and connect with as many people as possible.”
Barrington does much more than talk to kids about aviation and other science and math-related careers. At his nonprofit, Experience Aviation, middle and high school students do hands-on projects where they actually build robotics, cars and, yes, even airplanes. He smiles, “In just ten weeks, 60 students from failing schools built an airplane from scratch. When I took off in the plane, many of them witnessed their personal value and their true potential for the very first time.”
And Barrington has now gone global. He says, “I’m currently using Skype to communicate with explorers around the world and to coordinate with other various team members.”
In his quest to inspire even more students, Barrington will next transform a plane into a flying interactive classroom. He plans to circle the globe sharing science, technology and more with students via a variety of apps and video calls.
He explains, “Along the way, kids will also have a virtual window into 36 ground expeditions including Antarctica, the Serengeti Plains, and the Great Wall of China. And online challenges will let them compete to solve problems ranging from evacuating populations after tsunamis to collecting trash in space.”
“There are probably millions of kids out there like me who find science and exploration amazing, but lack the confidence or opportunity to take the next steps,” he muses. “I believe the secret is to have a dream and pursue it in exciting and engaging ways.”
Perhaps the most influential component of Barrington’s approach to education is that he is a living example of what can be accomplished by finding and relentlessly pursuing your dreams.