More than five years ago, when neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman took the life of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, he also took away the bright future ahead of him.
But Florida Memorial University —where Martin took summer aviation classes —plans to present his parents with a posthumous Bachelor’s of Aeronautical Science award for Martin during their spring commencement ceremony on May 13.
“It’s going to be an emotional day but we’re looking forward to it, ” Ceeon Smith of Florida Memorial University told ESSENCE about the ceremony where comedian, actress and TV host Sheryl Underwood, will be the commencement speaker.
Martin, who was unarmed and walking home from the convenience store, was shot and killed in February of 2012 by Zimmerman. The watchman was later acquitted on a second-degree murder charge after claiming he shot Martin in self-defense.
The teen not only had hopes of one day becoming a pilot, but he was also working towards making that dream a reality. As a child, according to his mother Sybrina Fulton, he took summer classes at Florida Memorial University where “ he was exposed to it by on of our graduates, Barrington Irvin.”
In 2007, Irvin not only made history by becoming the youngest person fly solo around the world, but the first African-American to do so.
“He has a summer youth camp, so as a young kid, Sabrina said he attended a lot of our summer youth programs hosted by Barrington that we had on here on campus,” Smith told ESSENCE.
Fulton told The Tampa Bay Times back in 2012 that “he loved flying and working with his hands. Barrington Irving took him on his plane at the Opa-Locka Airport. He got a chance to sit in the cockpit and that did it for him … he wanted to be a pilot or work as a mechanic in aviation. He was mechanically inclined and could fix just about anything.”
Florida Memorial University also holds a special place in the hearts of Martin’s family because it is the alma mater of his mother, Sybrina Fulton.
“Of special significance is awarding posthumously the Bachelor of Science Degree in Aviation to Trayvon Martin. Sybrina, our alum, epitomizes strength and dignity as she uplifts other victims of violence while effecting change for a more equal and just society,” Florida Memorial President Roslyn Clark-Artis said in a statement.