A frustrated truck driver from America who had always dreamed of being a pilot once tied 45 helium-filled balloons to his garden chair, packed up some sandwiches, a bottle of coke, a camera, a radio and a pellet gun, before cutting the anchor and rising up into the sky.
The journey did not go well. He quickly rose to 16,000 feet in the air and drifted into controlled airspace over an International Airport. Commercial pilots radioed air traffic control (imagine the reports: “there’s a man up here on a lawnchair!”) and his balloons even got tangled up in some power lines on the way down, causing a 20-minute power cut in the local area.
“Lawnchair Larry” (as he would infamously later be known) was immediately arrested when he finally touched down for violations under Federal Aviation Regulations.
But another daredevil pilot had a different experience. Felix Baumgartner was the solo pilot of the Red Bull Stratos project and flew a helium balloon 39 kilometres into the stratosphere, before jumping out and free falling for over 4 minutes. During his descent he was travelling so fast that he broke the sound barrier.
Felix’s jump set new world records. But his success came down to the team surrounding him who helped plan the mission, build the craft and support him through every step. In fact it was Joseph Kittinger, the previous world record holder for the highest skydive, who was the key communicator with Felix throughout his journey — one generation passing on their experience to the next.
“Lawnchair Larry” and Felix Baumgarnter were both very brave. But it was Felix who had a good plan and a good team around him for his journey.
“I have learned that even if secondary school is hard, there are people who will help me.”
Here at Souster Youth we have recently been helping year 6s to prepare for a different journey, their move to secondary school. We spent a full day working with the whole of year 6. Some of the quotes of what they said about the day are on this page.
As the wise saying goes, “Wherever you go, there you are.” So we think the preparation for secondary school goes beyond the practical details of what equipment to bring and where to catch the bus. The most important element is the young person themselves. We want young people to feel confident. We want them to know how they can access support. We want young people to have hope for the future.
Over the course of the day we encouraged the pupils to celebrate their unique personality and skills. We then helped them to think about how to build good friendships. And we provided a space for pupils to process their hopes, their regrets, their worries and their dreams.
“Today has helped me to get my feelings out —how I feel about moving up to secondary school.”
Ultimately we want their lives to tell a better story than “Lawnchair Larry”.
With the help of those around them — and for some even their faith in the unseen — we want them to achieve the impossible: like Felix Baumgartner’s jump from 39 kilometres in the air.
“I have learned to trust in God.”
With the help of local churches we helped over 190 year 6 pupils from five different primary schools prepare to move on to secondary school this year.
Through our work in local secondary schools we hope to continue to support many of these pupils in September.