What Makes LeBron James’ ‘I Promise’ School So Unique?

I’m an educator, and I’m officially excited. LeBron James may be headed to join the Los Angeles Lakers, but he’s not abandoning his hometown of Akron, Ohio.

On July 30, a large and excited crowd gathered to watch the opening of James’ “I Promise” school, designed to serve the low-income and at-risk students in this eastern Ohio city.

At the ceremony, James said:

This is a huge moment, not only in my life, not only in my family’s life, not only the the foundation’s life, but for these kids and the whole city of Akron, this is a huge moment for all of us. These kids still have the same opportunity as everyone else and that’s what’s most important.

“No matter if I’m playing in Los Angeles or not, Akron Ohio is always home for me,” he added to applause from the crowd.

This is a public school, it must be noted — not a charter or private school — and it’s the first of its kind. 

James founded his school through a partnership between the LeBron James Family Foundation and the Akron Public Schools system. It will serve at-risk students, especially those who are at least a year below their expected reading level. 

“I Promise” will enroll 240 students in its first year: 120 third graders and 120 fourth graders. By 2022, the plan is to make it a K-8 school.

How iIs “I Promise” unique?

The school:

  • Gives every student a bike and a helmet
  • Provides free transportation for students who live more than two miles away
  • Serves free breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks
  • Implements a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. school day and shorter summer vacations
  • Runs STEM-based camps during the summer
  • Guarantees free college tuition to the University of Akron for all graduating students
  • Offers job placement assistance for parents, as well as a food bank

You can find some of these advantages at other schools. KIPP charter schools, for example, have a 9-to-5 day and cater to low-achieving students. Meanwhile, Rocketship Public Schools — also a charter program — emphasize STEM education and have a longer-than-usual school day. 

In other words, “I Promise” is using successful models but packaging them in a unique way.

As a teacher, I was especially impressed to read that all supplies are provided by the school. I’ve been in education for over 25 years, and I have spent thousands of my own dollars during that time. Teachers also get free access to psychological services, and James has hired a personal trainer for teachers who would like a guided workout.

How is it possible to pay for all this?

According to a report in Akron’s Beacon Journal, the Akron school district will spend a total of $8.1 million for the I Promise school over the next five years. That’s not enough to support the aspirations of James’s school, so his family foundation will make up the difference: With its partners, the foundation has already contributed $2 million for various needs, including extra staffing and building upgrades.

Congratulations!

This is a huge commitment to education — a point that has not been lost on James’s fellow NBA players. Steph Curry, Warriors’ guard and recent rival of James, tweeted just two words: “Freaking Amazing!”

NBA superstars Chris Paul and Dwayne Wade offered huge praise. “Proud of you for chasing your dreams and in turn, giving the opportunity to hundreds of kids to realize theirs,” tweeted Paul.

The three-time NBA champion and four-time league Most Valuable Player, who ranks seventh in the all-time scoring list, proudly told ESPN, ”I don’t have a ceiling to how much I can improve my game. And we as a foundation don’t have a ceiling on how much we can improve our community, to a point where we have a school.”

Now if only LeBron James could take over from Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education.

Photo Credit: Erik Drost/Flickr

35 comments

Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson3 months ago

Thank you.

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Peggy B
Peggy B4 months ago

Total respect.

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Angela K
Angela K4 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Cindy M. Dutka
Cindy M. D4 months ago

Just one more reason I use only 2 words to refer to this amazing man - "King James"

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Winn A
Winn Adams4 months ago

Blessings and thanks.

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Winn A
Winn Adams4 months ago

What a wonderful thing to do for your community.

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Marija M
Marija M4 months ago

Respect!

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Margie F
Margie FOURIE4 months ago

Thank you to Le Bron.

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Shirley S
Shirley S4 months ago

Kudos to LeBron.

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Roberta G
Roberta G4 months ago

Most of us in the Akron area are proud of LeBron James and what he has accomplished to further education. Unfortunately, today's Akron Bacon Journal has a few sickening quotes by pro-trump racist readers. Most are favorable (and intelligent!) reactions condemning the trump's latest twit...er...I mean tweet.

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