LeBron James the basketball player has left Ohio. But on Monday morning, the footprint of LeBron James, the philanthropist, got even bigger in his home state.
The I Promise School, started in conjunction with James’s foundation and Akron Public Schools, opened Monday for 240 third- and fourth-grade students. The school will add grade levels each academic year, and by 2022 is expected to educate children in first through eighth grades.
Much has been written about James’s turbulent childhood in Akron, Ohio. In fourth grade, for example, he missed more than 16 weeks worth of school days. The LeBron James Family Foundation sought a way to help families like the one he grew up in, providing children with an education, a path to college and support services for them and their parents.
“We are going to be that groundbreaking school that will be a nationally recognized model for urban and public school excellence,” I Promise principal and Akron native Brandi Davis told USA Today. “We are letting people know it is about true wrap-around support, true family integration and true compassion.”
Students were selected for the inaugural class based on their academic history.
“Looking at reading data, we identified students who were a year, two years behind in reading,” Keith Liechty, the Akron Public Schools’ liaison to James’ foundation, told the newspaper. “From that, we had more than 120 kids. We had to put a cap on it so we could fit under one roof. We did a random selection of all students who met that criteria and got to make these awesome phone calls to parents and say, ‘How would you like to be part of something different, the I Promise School.’”
James moved from the hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency this off-season. Still, a big chunk of his heart is in Akron. On Sunday, James, 33, tweeted this:
“The jitters before the first day of school are real right now!!! Tomorrow is going to be one of the greatest moments (if not the greatest) of my life when we open the #IPROMISE School. This skinny kid from Akron who missed 83 days of school in the 4th grade had big dreams.”
The school year will run from July 30 through May 17, and then will resume for a seven-week summer school. Students will attend weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.