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Captain Barrington Irving Headlines JPS Spring Parent Conference

April 30, 2019

Captain Barrington Irving and general session presenters
General session presenters included (from left) Shauntea Kelly, a student at Wingfield High; Ruben Banks, a student at Jim Hill High; Captain Barrington Irving; Dr. Jean Hairston, Board President; Dr. Errick L. Greene, Superintendent; and Carlin Nichols, a student at the Michelle Obama Early College High School Program.

Captain Barrington Irving, who has set records in the aviation industry, headlined the Spring Parent and Family Engagement Conference hosted by Jackson Public Schools Thursday, April 25. Irving shared his story of breaking barriers. Growing up in low-income areas of Miami where youth like him were more likely to steal cars than build them, a chance encounter with a pilot who became his mentor changed his life's course. Once he decided to become a pilot, the same ingenuity and street smarts that sustained him in Miami's two poorest districts led him to acquire his first airplane—he built it.

He shared his story before an audience of mostly parents in attendance at the Districtwide parent conference. The meat of his message was meant to encourage parents and other adults to believe in what their children can become.

Later in his life, after achieving success as a pilot and conducting presentations for schools, it was a letter from a teacher that changed his mission again from inspiring youth to empowering them.

"That's what this is about," said Irving. "How do you empower young people?"

LeSian Davis presenting
JPS Lead Counselor LeSian Davis explains graduation requirements and dual enrollment in a session for parents of high school students.
Dr. Laquanta Nelson presenting
Blackburn Principal Dr. LaQuanta Murray Nelson gives parents pointers on how to help their children have a successful middle school experience.

After receiving the letter, he became determined to get involved in education, starting in his hometown of Miami. He has challenged students as young as fifth-grade to build aerodynamic vehicles, either planes or really fast cars. One group of eighth-grade students in Miami built an airplane from scratch in 10 weeks. Irving admitted that one of the barriers to this ultimately successful outcome was that many adults involved did not believe students that age could build an airplane.

Irving's presentation also emphasized the significance of mentorship. His own life was transformed by a mentor, a pilot who devoted 30 minutes a week describing his profession and various places his assignments took him. Likewise, when Irving became a successful pilot, he began mentoring students himself. His program turned students who could not do basic math into high-salaried professionals. Included among those he presented as examples were an engineer, a certified airplane mechanic, a fighter pilot, and a medical student.

"Parents, as important as the journey is, your children only care about the destination," said Irving.

In addition to Irving's eye-opening presentation during the general session, attendees were served dinner and took part in breakout sessions. Irving also conducted a hands-on STEM workshop with middle and high school students.

With session titles like Kindergarten Readiness: The Power of Early Literacy, Keep Calm and Relax: Helping Your Child Succeed in Middle School, and Making Math Make Cents, there were relevant topics for every parent in attendance. The sessions were replete with strategies for parents whether their children are in preschool, elementary, middle school or high school. Presenters provided tips for parents to help with behavior, classroom success, and ways to use technology to enhance education, not just for entertainment. Participating parents could attend two sessions from more than a dozen choices. The small groups and informal setting facilitated parent interaction with the presenters and each other.

The District holds the Parent Engagement Conference to encourage parents to become more involved with our schools. Through increased parent engagement students behave better in class and therefore perform better. 

Conference presenters included JPS Superintendent Dr. Errick L. Greene, School Board President Dr. Jeanne M. Hairston, and JPS Parent of the Year Cheryl Smith. Students who took part in the general session included Ruben Banks of Jim Hill High School and Shauntea Kelly of Wingfield High School. Carlin Nichols, a ninth grader at the Michelle Obama Early College High School introduced Barrington as the special guest speaker. Workshop presenters were teachers and administrators of JPS schools and offices.

Learn more about Captain Barrington Irving on his website, flyingclassroom.com.

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