For many Ohioans, LeBron James’ biggest contribution to his hometown isn’t the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA championship trophy.
It’s the work he’s done for school kids in his community of Akron.
And this week, his efforts grew as the Akron Public Schools Superintendent announced that the first “I Promise School” sponsored by the LeBron James Family Foundation was officially approved for the district.
The school will be specifically targeted at helping kids who are at risk for falling behind their peers, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. James’ I Promise Network already helps about 1,100 area kids with after school support and mentoring, according to the report.
Now James’ All-Stars will get their very own school — and more of it, too.
"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 told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "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."
James launched the network in 2011 to tackle the high school dropout rate and achievement gap in Akron, according to his foundation. Global Citizen campaigns to ensure access to quality education for all children around the world — you can join us in taking action here.
“Hey guys, How are all of my I PROMISE All-Stars doing?” James wrote to participants earlier this year. “I’m so proud of my kids who, after a poor test score, rise up, work hard, and improve on their next test. That’s what we do, right? I love looking down at my wrists in the middle of a game and seeing, ‘I PROMISE.’ It reminds me of you guys and how hard you are working.”
The district has already identified 120 third-grade students, chosen by lottery, who will be joined by second grade students to be chosen next year, who will become the first graduates of the I Promise School. Eventually the school will serve kids in grades 1-8.
“I want to thank LeBron for raising the bar,” school board member Bruce Alexander said, according to the paper. “We want to stop lowering the bar for students.”
“We knew the LeBron James Family Foundation was one of the most valuable partners we’d experienced in our APS history,” board member Debbie Walsh said at the announcement ceremony. “You kids have the greatest opportunity ahead of you.”
The school will cost about $2.5 million, according to the paper.
The I Promise School will have longer school days and more evenly-spaced breaks than their peers, including a shorter summer break to reduce the effects of the so-called “summer slide.”
They’ll also have an hour each day — called the “illumination period” — for intervention and enrichment activities, and a family resource center on site with a curriculum designed to be sensitive to trauma.
"This is a real thing," James told Cleveland.com, "and we want our kids to have fun while learning. But, listen, we're going to be on them like a school should be because we want them to be successful, not only in the school but successful in life. We're gonna give them everything that they need and give them a criteria that they all can meet, depending on the individual."
And LeBron seems to be doing all he can to make sure he leaves a legacy beyond his championship ring to his hometown of Akron.