To call Barrington Irving ambitious would be an understatement. The Opa-locka native has excelled as an aviation figure, a role model for disadvantaged children and a father of four.
Now he’s a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. The program rewards young pioneers who are already making a difference in their fields with $10,000 to continue with their explorations and research.
Mr. Irving is a man who knows sacrifice. He took a risk turning down a full-ride football scholarship to the University of Florida, instead pursuing his long-time goal of flight. He held many jobs to support his ambitions. His hard work paid off.
Mr. Irving became both the youngest person and the first African American to circumnavigate the world by flight. He did so in a plane he built himself from donated parts at the mere age of 23. Rejection simply was not an option for Mr. Irving: Fifty different organizations turned him down for funding. Still, he persisted.
Through Experience Academy, which he founded, Mr. Irving is teaching young people to accept no limitations. The 4-year-old nonprofit organization encourages students to follow their interests in science, math, engineering and technology.
“My ultimate goal is to show young people that they can do amazing things,” Mr. Irving said.
Even build a plane from scratch, which 60 high school students did as a project in Experience Academy with Mr. Irving’s guidance. More impressive still: They completed construction in just 10 weeks.
Mr. Irving is teaching students that through dedication, they can accomplish anything. He has put countless hours into helping kids turn their dreams into reality.
He is also transforming their perception of education, turning it from a chore to a fun part of their lives. He has incorporated recreation facilities within Experience Academy so young people can unwind in a safe environment, even opening a new laser tag arena at Opa-locka Airport.
Mr. Irving is committed to improving the lives of young members of his community by sharing with them his passions. Rarely will you come across an aviation pioneer who is also a dedicated philanthropist. It’s a point of community pride that he calls South Florida home.