The junior class at LeBron James’ school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio received major news about the future of their education on Wednesday.
The LeBron James Family Foundation announced that it will provide four years of free tuition at Kent State University (KSU) for eligible students in the first graduating class at I Promise School. The class of 193 students will have the option to enroll in the 2021-2022 academic year.
Todd Diacon, KSU president, shared the news at a ceremony with I Promise School students and their families. Diacon had each student check under their seat to open an envelope with the university’s offer.
"The I Promise program is built on the ‘earned, not given’ philosophy," Michele Campbell, executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation, said in a statement to Global Citizen. "We are so excited that our students that have worked incredibly hard have earned even more life-changing opportunities to grow and excel."
I Promise students must be admitted to KSU and apply for financial aid. The university will then cover the balance. First-year housing and meal plans are also included in the package.
To alleviate the financial burden school supplies places on families, KSU announced a fundraising effort to cover books and housing after the first year for students who need additional support. Tuition is not the only barrier to education low-income students around the world face –– lack of access to transportation, the need to work to help support family, and having to choose between basic needs and school also get in the way.
To continue qualifying for free tuition, students are required to meet a minimum number of community service hours each semester. Tuition will remain free for the students as long as they maintain good academic standing and meet community service requirements.
I Promise School has an existing relationship with KSU –– students attended summer enrichment programs at the university this summer.
"We have already seen the impressive results that the I Promise network is having on its participating students," Interim Senior Vice President and Provost Melody Tankersley said in a statement.
James first opened I Promise School, which serves over 1,300 at-risk youth, in 2018 to help get students back on track to complete their education. Ohio’s four-year high school graduation rate for black students at public schools was among the lowest states in the nation in 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
"I just know that so many kids in my community just don't have many options," James told reporters after the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. "For me to be able to be in a position to give these kids options to decide what they want to do with their future, it's probably the best thing I've ever done."