LeBron opens public school offering free meals, college tuition to graduates and more
According to USA Today, basketball superstar LeBron James opened up a school on Monday in Akron, Ohio. The school, called I Promise, is a product of Akron Public Schools teaming up with James’ foundation, The LeBron James Family Foundation, with assistance from JP Morgan Chase Bank and other corporate sponsors.
I Promise pledges to support parents in the Akron community by providing educational, career and emotional support. The school is ambitious, to say the least. It will expand from currently serving 3rd and 4th graders to serving grades 1-8 by the year 2022. Students who complete the program and graduate will be guaranteed tuition to the University of Akron.
On Instagram, James also promised free tuition, free uniforms, a free bicycle and helmet, free transportation within two miles, free breakfast, lunch and snacks, a food pantry for families, and GEDs and job placement services for parents.
I Promise principal Brandie Davis tells USA Today, “We are going to be that groundbreaking school that will be a nationally recognized model for urban and public school excellence… We are letting people know it is about true wrap-around support, true family integration and true compassion.”
Liaison to James’ foundation from Akron Public Schools Keith Liechty told USA Today about how the school selected the 240 third and fourth grade “at-risk” students: “Looking at reading data, we identified students who were a year, two years behind in reading.” Liechty explained. “From that, we had more than 120 kids. We had to put a cap on it so we could fit under one roof. We did a random selection of all students who met that criteria and got to make these awesome phone calls to parents and say, ‘How would you like to be part of something different, the I Promise School.’”
Michele Campbell, the executive director of The LeBron James Family Foundation tells USA Today, the school is a natural outgrowth of James’ path in life: “LeBron missed a lot of school in the fourth grade. It’s well-documented,” Campbell said. “We all know which path he took. He took the right path with some very good people around him and now we know him as the world’s best basketball player. He could’ve taken the other road, and we would’ve never known LeBron James. He would’ve been a statistic like a lot of students who drop out of school… Every one of these kids, maybe they don’t become LeBron James on the basketball court, but they become the LeBron James of their passion and dream in life.”
As fate would have it, the school is located just down the street from James’ alma mater, St. Vincent St. Mary High School, seemingly bringing LeBron James and his story full circle. James himself tweeted out ahead of the school’s opening: “The jitters before the first day of school are real right now!!! Tomorrow is going to be one of the greatest moments (if not the greatest) of my life when we open the #IPROMISE School. This skinny kid from Akron who missed 83 days of school in the 4th grade had big dreams.”
Lebron James speaks to the media at the grand opening of I Promise