NBA demigod LeBron James had a huge win off the court this week when his dream of opening up a school in his Ohio hometown got closer to becoming a reality. The Akron school board has approved the plan for a new Akron public school to be built in partnership with the LeBron James Family Foundation. The “I Promise” School is scheduled to open for third and fourth-graders next fall, with new grades being added in future years.
“We’re gonna give them everything that they need and give them a criteria that they all can meet, depending on the individual,” James says of the school.
The school’s curriculum will be designed to provide the best education possible for students who are in danger of falling behind at a young age. Poor nutrition and a lack of after-school activity are often cited as the biggest educational obstacles kids in impoverished communities face, so the school will be prioritizing both of these issues. To make sure students are retaining what they will be learning, James’ school will have longer days than most schools and the school year will begin when most schools are still out for summer.
To ensure their bid was taken seriously by the Akron School Board, James’ foundation pulled out all the stops, assembling a team of educational advisers to help create a vision for the school. They also brought in several “330 Ambassadors”, the nickname given to high-performing students who are mentors in the “I Promise” program, to speak about their experience with the LeBron James Family Foundation. The idea for the school is based on “I Promise” programs started by the James foundation which encourage kids who are struggling to stay in school and graduate.
With three NBA titles, four MVP awards, and 13 All-Star selections, James has already established himself as one of the greatest to ever play the game at just 32 years old. But the future Hall of Famer says that he is most proud of the work he has done off the court through his foundation.
“For me to be able to open up a school and give back to my inner city, so many kids that I know because I was those kids,” James explained. “I walked those streets and it was just like, ‘There’s no way I’m going to be able to get out of this situation.’ I just thought about that every day. I had dreams and I had mentors and they allowed my dreams to become who I am today.
“People can talk about everything else besides that, but they can never take away what I’m able to do for my hometown and people all around the world. That’s what means to me more than anything. The basketball thing, I love it and I enjoy it, but to give back and be able to open up a school, that’s something that will last way beyond my years.”
The LeBron James Family Foundation was founded by James in 2010 with the mission to help kids who are struggling with their education and increase graduation rates in Akron Public Schools. Specifically, LJFF has provided assistance to kids who are growing up in Akron, like James did, with many of the students coming from single-parent households. Students in LJFF’s mentoring program have received counseling and tutoring through the foundation and beginning in 2021, students who graduate from an Akron public high school with a 3.0 GPA will be eligible for a scholarship to the University of Akron for free. With over 1,000 students currently enrolled in the program, tuition is expected to cost the Foundation at least $41 million.