Remember July? It seems so long ago. Well, something really big happened last month just in time for some great back-to-school news! On July 30th, LeBron James’ I Promise School opened in his hometown of Akron, Ohio to 240 students for the first time ever. For a long time, the school started out as an unattainable dream. When he was younger, LeBron missed 83 days of 4th grade. His mother, Gloria, struggled to find a steady job for her and young LeBron, which denied him the security and stability he needed to receive as a growing child. He told the Los Angeles Times that he never understood the importance of education and how it can help break already existing poverty cycles. James wants the I Promise School to guarantee resources and opportunities for the students that he didn’t have growing up. He hopes that his school will provide the kids of Akron a bright and successful future.
HOW THE I PROMISE SCHOOL WAS STARTED
The staff of the LeBron James Family Foundation had a brainstorming session where James and executive director Michele Campbell discussed how to better involve their foundation in the community in Akron. Campbell suggested that opening a school could work, but James wondered why that wasn’t already happening. Campbell reminded him that the foundation didn’t have enough resources to start that big of a project, however, James told her to start it anyway. James told CNN “We want every kid to walk through this school to be inspired, to come away with something”.
WHAT I PROMISE IS
I Promise is a public school in Akron, Ohio for grades K-12. James chose it to be public rather than a charter or private because he believes that improving the public schools in inner-city Akron will help the city as a whole grow and develop. I Promise has an extended school day that goes from 9 to 5 every day, and includes an extended school year with a summer program. The extended hours ensure that the students are getting the best education they can, while also making sure that they have a safe place to play and learn during the typical “after school hours”.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO ATTEND I PROMISE
I Promise School’s first ever students are 240 randomly selected 3rd and 4th graders who are deemed at risk by the Akron board of education. On average, these kids are two reading levels below their peers. With I Promise’s unconventional hours of operation, they are giving this at-risk-youth a chance to advance and succeed with their academics. By 2022, James says that the school will be able to fully educate K-8th graders.
HOW I PROMISE IS GETTING ITS FUNDING
Akron District Treasurer Ryan Pendleton spoke to the Akron Beacon Journal about the funds I Promise is getting. This year, the Akron Public School system, with the LeBron James Family Foundation, is spending $2.9 million of their general fund on I Promise. Come 5 years, it is expected that $8.1 million will be invested from the school district into I Promise. And that’s exactly how Akron sees it. Pendleton suggests that I Promise will be a long-term investment for the city of Akron and its students. The LeBron James Family Foundation will also be meeting the needs for the programs and activities that the school offers to its students.
WHAT I PROMISE OFFERS
The school is STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) based, and with the partnership of James and the University of Akron, will guarantee all graduating seniors a full ride to the institution (Time Money). That’s huge!!! I don’t think this is getting the attention it deserves. This is free tuition to a public university with lots of opportunities. College is already so expensive as it is, and not everyone is fortunate enough to afford it, but with this guarantee, the I Promise students will be getting a higher education, no ifs, ands, or buts.
The school also provides free healthy breakfasts, lunches, and snacks to its students. James understands that healthy foods are more expensive and not as accessible in low-income areas. The school also offers free bicycles and helmets for all students. When James, was young, he used to ride his bike to get out of the not so safe areas of Akron. He wanted each of his students to have the same protection that he felt with his bike. Counseling services are provided on campus which will help the students learn different coping skills (specifically with trauma), and career services and GED classes for the parents. Principal Brandi Davis says: “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 that it is about true wraparound support. True family integration, true compassion.”
I Promise seems like it will be a great addition to the city of Akron and will ensure that its students are prepared academically to take on the world. Congratulations, King James. You have taken an unattainable dream and turned it into a life-changing reality. I promise that your school will be everything you’ve dreamed it would be.
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