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California teen trying to become youngest African-American pilot to fly around the world

ICYMI: 16-year-old Isaiah Cooper is already the youngest black teen to fly across the country

Most kids grow up with inspirational pep talks that propel their dreams. In the case of 16-year-old Isaiah Cooper, the phrase “the sky’s the limit” was accepted as more of a challenge than a clichéd inspirational quote.

In July, Cooper, accompanied by flight instructor Robin Petgrave, landed safely in California after an 8,000-mile trip across the country. Upon completion, the Compton, California, native became the youngest African-American pilot to do so.

Cooper has conquered the country, and he’s now ready to take on the world. Cooper hopes to become the youngest African-American pilot to travel across the world on a solo trip by next year in order to break records and inspire other kids all around the world. The current Guinness World Record holder is South Dakota’s Matt Guthmiller, who took a solo flight across the globe at 19 years old in 2014.

Cooper started a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign with a goal of $45,000. So far, he’s raised more than $5,400 and he’s had a little help from rapper The Game. According to his Instagram account, The Game has donated $1,000 toward Cooper’s venture and is encouraging others to do so, too.

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“There’s a higher power that’s always there trying to have you focused, so whatever you want to do, you can do it. Just put your mind to it,” Cooper told NBC Los Angeles after his cross-country trip, which took nearly two weeks to complete.

Cooper’s original plane sustained heavy damage while flying in rough weather, which lengthened his trip. Though the path hadn’t gone as smoothly as the young pilot had hoped, Petgrave praised Cooper for the way he handled the incidents that occurred during the flight.

“He was able to execute the emergency procedures flawlessly, got it on the road, landed, didn’t damage the houses, the schools, the construction crew, nothing,” Petgrave said. “I mean, he got out of that thing safely.”

Maya Jones is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a native New Orleanian who enjoys long walks down Frenchmen Street and romantic dates to Saints games.