Thanks to a $1 million grant, at-risk youth who attend I Promise School in Akron, Ohio, might have a chance to become the next LeBron James.
The NBA star presented students in his hometown with a check from the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation to build a new gym.
The LeBron James Family Foundation opened the I Promise school in 2018 for students in first grade through eighth grade. Physical education is a part of the school’s specially designed curriculum to prevent students from falling behind academically, and help them reach their full potential.
“Sport coaches, working in partnership with other educators, can help students develop as well-rounded individuals who are physically fit and in good physical health, have a moral compass to have a plan for their own lives, and the capacity to improve their communities,” Fernando M. Reimers, Ford Foundation professor of the practice in international education at Harvard University, told Global Citizen.
The DICKS Sporting Goods Foundation is humbled to be part of giving the incredible kids at the @IPROMISESchool their first GYM ensuring they have a place to belong. Big thanks to @LJFamFoundation and @KingJames#SportsMatterpic.twitter.com/kXP7QK7qzt— DICK'S Sporting Goods (@DICKS) May 10, 2019
The Dick’s Sports Matter program provides grants and other support to youth to play sports, with a focus on low-income communities and high-poverty schools. James announced the donation at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School gym in Akron, which he told the crowd was his favorite place to go once school let out for the year.
"To my kids, this is more than a gym. The DICK'S Sports Matter program is helping us provide even more opportunities," James said on Friday, according to CBS News. "I believe the sky is the limit for these kids and the results we're seeing are just the beginning."
Children living in poverty, who tend to be more prone to health issues like obesity, suffer the most from the lack of physical education and sports programs. Schools use gyms for after-school sports programs, which are known to increase academic efforts and school attendance, but many can barely fund physical education during school hours. The median physical education budget for US schools is $764 a year, according to the Society of Health and Physical Educators. Student-athletes are 74% more likely than non-athletes to aspire to graduate from college, according to the Women’s Sports Foundation. This means children from low-income families often miss out on exercise if they don’t have the resources at home, or school.
Reimers hopes Dick’s Sports Matters’ announcement prompts others to advocate for more physical education funding.
“It is an example that others could follow in supporting schools to have the necessary resources to cultivate the full range of capacities students need to thrive in a rapidly changing world.”