The National Geographic Emerging Explorer, Barrington Irving, impressed Historic City News editor Michael Gold Saturday, during two inspirational presentations in the Palencia Elementary School cafeteria; both were part of the St Johns County Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Fair.
Irving was raised in Miami’s inner city; surrounded by crime, poverty, and failing schools. He beat the odds to become the youngest person — and only African American — to fly solo around the world.
“Kids want to be challenged, but today too many are bored and uninspired,” Irving told Historic City News. “I want to use aviation to excite and empower a new generation to become scientists, engineers, and explorers.”
The secret, he believes, is having a dream in the first place — that starts with powerful learning experiences that inspire kids to pursue careers, Irving says.
The moment of inspiration for Irving came at 15-years-old while working in his parent’s bookstore. One of their customers, a Jamaican born professional pilot, asked Irving if he’d ever thought about becoming a pilot. Irving said that he turned down a full football scholarship to the University of Florida; choosing to wash airplanes to earn money for flight school. He told reporters that he increased his flying skills by practicing at home on a forty-dollar flight simulator video game.
Among Barrington’s many accolades is a 2007 Congressional Resolution; acknowledging his historic around-the-world achievement and his pioneering work in the field of aviation education. He is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Florida Memorial University, and is the recipient of the highest honor given by the Florida State Senate — the Medallion of Excellence.
“Through determination, hard work and a passion for what you want to achieve, people can accomplish great things,” said Irving. “Everyone told me what I couldn’t do. They said I was too young; that I didn’t have enough money, experience, strength, or knowledge. They told me it would take forever and I’d never come home. Well…guess what?”