Most basketball fans thought that LeBron signing with the Los Angeles Lakers would be the biggest move he made this summer. However, the opening of the I Promise School, a joint venture funded by the LeBron James Family Foundation and Akron, Ohio Public Schools, certainly showed the public that LeBron is capable of making headlines off the court as well.
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History of I Promise
The LeBron James Family Foundation started the I Promise campaign in 2011. The campaign goal was to combat the high dropout rates in the Akron school district. I Promise offered mentoring in school, out of school and to parents of underperforming students in Akron. Beginning in 2015, as a result of program success, I Promise partnered with the University of Akron, giving I Promise students a full scholarship to the university. And on July 30, 2018, the I Promise School opened its doors to third and fourth graders. By 2022 the goal is to grow the I Promise School to grades one through eight with nearly a 1000 students.
The school is named I Promise because students actually recite the “I Promise Pledge,” seemingly every morning. Here is a video of I Promise third graders reciting the pledge to their principal on the first day of class at the school.
What the I Promise School does for students and their families
Students at the I Promise School are at-risk and underperforming students from the Akron, Ohio area. In order to change some of the bad habits students might have developed in traditional schooling, the I Promise School runs very differently from a traditional US public school. To begin the school day, students are required to eat breakfast with their teacher. Then in the middle of the day, after lunch and recess, there is time designated for a “supportive circle.” This time is meant to allow students to unwind from their break in learning and get refocused on schoolwork. In addition to qualified educators, I Promise students will be able to produce top-notch work because every student is given a Chromebook laptop for free. Then, because LeBron claims a bike is what made him feel freest as a child, every I Promise School student is given a bicycle of their own.
Additionally, the I Promise School has adopted a unique yearly schedule. The I Promise School year runs from July to May leaving only 7 weeks of summer vacation. The condensed summer vacation is in place to eliminate what educators call a “slide” period where students forget knowledge or skills. To ensure that students experience academic growth in the summer, the I Promise School will offer summer camps in the STEM fields.
The reach of the I Promise School’s generosity doesn’t just stop at the students. Parents and caregivers have ready access to a food pantry, GED classes, and job training.
I Promise School Design
Aside from the amazing academic opportunities given to the students attending the, I Promise School, the school’s interior, and exterior is also a work of art, a component of the school that is often overlooked when discussing the school. For instance, in the lobby of the school, the walls are lined with 114 different LeBron James game-worn sneakers. Additionally, emblazoned all over many of the rooms in the building is the words “We Are Family” which seems to be the motto for the school community.
Contrary to what the media may lead people to believe, LeBron’s I Promise School is not a private or charter school. Technically it is designated as a public school. So, the LeBron James Family Foundation has received some criticism for not paying for the entire school. Reportedly, the foundation has paid $2 million in building renovations, but the foundation also covers the cost of any additional services provided by the school such as bicycles, the food pantry, GED classes and job training for parents. Although there have been many reports that the I Promise School will force taxpayers to pay a lot more money, a lot of the financial information for the school has been kept under wraps by the foundation and the city of Akron. Because the I Promise School is less than a month old, we will have to wait and see if it causes a financial burden on taxpayers in Akron or if it accomplishes its main goal of keeping children in school.
Overall, LeBron James has done something special with the money generated from a 15-year NBA career and “lifetime” contract with Nike. Hopefully, James is the trailblazer for the trend of athletes using their platforms and money to create change in areas of the world that need help. In a few months, LeBron will return to his day job as the new face of the Los Angeles Lakers organization and begin contending for the 2019 NBA Championship. Find Lakers’ game watch parties at local restaurants and bars on FanWide to cheer on LeBron and his team throughout the year.