MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Barrington Irving, a renowned pilot and educator, spoke to hundreds of middle- and high-school students Friday at a career fair benefiting underserved Miami students.

“I am just here to share with them how aviation changed my life and what it can do for them,” said Irving, who added he decided to fly planes after meeting an American Airlines pilot at an early age.

Irving grew up in inner-city Miami and graduated from Miami Northwestern High School. In 2007, at age 23, he set a Guinness World Record as the youngest person and first African-American to fly solo around the world.

To encourage careers in aviation, Irving founded the nonprofit Experience Aviation (, through which youth tackle hands-on robotics, aircraft-building and flight-simulator challenges.

He said it’s an honor to have the opportunity to inspire his hometown’s students to do great things.

“You could be talking to a kid who has been contemplating suicide or giving up or dropping out, and you just never know what the one thing is they gravitated towards and said, ‘You know what? I’m going to try a little bit harder and change my life.'”

More than 500 students attended the second annual Aviation & Technology Career Pathways Fair held Friday morning at Miami Central Senior High School in Miami.

“They are motivation, they make me want to go further,” said junior Aline Casseus.

“Growing up, we think we might stay here forever, but from the pilot seen today it shows that even though we were born and raised in this community, we can venture out and do anything bigger and greater things,” said senior Abraham Bonamy.

The school’s principal, Gregory Bethune, said he was glad his students were able to participate in the event.

“I know we are unique in the sense a lot of our students have outside obligations before they even get to school, so them getting here and being productive here and having that outlook to see the future to see what they can become is extra rewarding,” Bethune said.

Businesses and educational institutions were on hand, offering students real-world perspectives on careers in aviation and technology.

The event is part of AAR’s ongoing partnership with City Year Miami, a nonprofit that provides mentoring and tutoring to students in underserved areas, and Miami public schools.

AAR is the largest independent supplier of aircraft maintenance services in North America and a nationally recognized leader for its work mentoring students and exposing them to careers in aviation.

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