LeBron James has built somewhat of a reputation for giving it back. The NBA star has his own eponymous foundation, is a vocal supporter of various non-profit children’s organizations and has even been awarded for his services to the community. But his latest project, a multi-million dollar public elementary school, may be his most awe-inspiring yet – and here’s why.
20. The school is intended to help disadvantaged kids
James decided to set up the I Promise School in his native Akron after learning about the troubling number of kids in the city who leave high school without a diploma. The initiative is designed to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds with their education and general well-being. And James has plenty of experience of being in such a position.
19. James had gaps in his education himself
Indeed, James missed 83 days of school in fourth grade thanks to his unsettled family life. The future basketball star had to relocate often back then as his mother looked for work, and his education suffered as a result. However, James’ background inspired him to give kids in similar situations the backing and attention they need to thrive.
18. Each student will receive a free bicycle
It may sound like a slightly random initiative, but there’s a heartwarming story behind James’ offer of a free bicycle and helmet for every student. You see, the NBA player has previously talked about how the freedom of riding a bicycle as a youngster helped to save him from a life on the streets.
17. There’s also free transportation
But if students don’t fancy cycling to the I Promise School, or if adverse weather conditions prevent them from doing so, then there’s further help at hand. That’s because free transportation is also on offer to and from school every day; the sole drawback is that it only covers the area within two miles of the school.
16. Students will receive free meals
It’s been said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and the I Promise School is making sure that every student gets the chance to put this theory to the test. However, as well as a completely complimentary meal at the start of school, kids will also be given free lunch and snacks to help guarantee that their education isn’t disrupted by rumbling stomachs.
15. There’s also access to a food bank
And it’s not just at the school where mealtimes are taken care of, as any student with a family facing financial hardship is given access to an on-site pantry. Here, parents can take home various items contributed by a nearby food bank and so ensure that there’s always something on the dinner table.
14. Children can stay at school for longer
As a substitute for the at-home assistance that some of its students may be lacking, I Promise will make its facilities available for much longer than most schools. The school day itself is extended, for instance. And in a move that may prove to be unpopular with some kids, there will also be a briefer summer vacation period.
13. Every graduate will receive free college tuition
In fact, some students will continue benefiting from the school long after they leave it. How? Well, anyone who graduates with a GPA of 3.0 or above will be entitled to college tuition from the University of Akron – totally free of charge. The offer is part of the I Promise Network Scholarship, which was set up in 2015 by the college, JPMorgan Chase and James’ foundation.
12. It takes care of students’ emotional needs
The I Promise School believes that a student’s emotional welfare is just as important as their academic achievements. As a result, then, youngsters can take advantage of classes specifically intended to foster habits beneficial to their health. Daily support circles are also staged following lunch.
11. Every classroom has a promise board
Each classroom of the I Promise School has been fitted with a filing cabinet that, on its front, also acts as a promise board. Various statements intended to encourage and inspire can be found on the doors, and these messages are spoken out loud by the students on a regular basis. Perhaps the most emphatic promise, though, is the last one that the kids recite: “I promise, above all else, to finish school.”
10. It will soon be open to more students
The I Promise School is only currently an option for disadvantaged kids from Akron in the third and fourth grades. However, its number of attendees will increase greatly over the next few years. Indeed, by 2022 the school plans to be welcoming students from the first grade right up to the eighth.
9. Parents are given access to a GED program
And it’s not just the kids whose lives the I Promise School are aiming to change. You see, their parents may also benefit from the several initiatives that the educational facility is offering. For starters, any mother or father of a student who didn’t manage to acquire their own high school diploma will be given the chance to enter a GED program.
8. And the school will help moms and dads with job opportunities too
But the assistance offered to students’ parents doesn’t stop with the GED help, as the school can also aid parents in finding good jobs. In July 2018 principal Brandi Davis told SB Nation, “I think the missing link in public education is that family wrap-around support. We want to create that safe… secure and… caring and loving environment for our families and our students so that our kids can focus on education.”
7. It pays for teachers’ supplies
Typically, teachers end up having to spend their own hard-earned money on supplies for the classroom. That’s not the case at the I Promise School, however. In a further move to help ensure that everyone associated with the facility will benefit in some way, all provisions for instructors will be available free of charge.
6. Teachers are given free psychological care
And free pens and paper aren’t the only perk that teachers will receive, as the I Promise School also offers them psychological care in order to help them cope with their day-to-day duties. Teaching staff can additionally take advantage of career development facilities – not to mention their very own personal trainer.
5. The school looks amazing
Okay, so the school’s appearance may seem a relatively trivial matter compared to the life-changing initiatives mentioned above. But it’s hard not to be impressed by just how super-cool the building is on a visual level. And perhaps the most eye-catching feature is the array of James’ old game shoes, which can be seen on the walls right next to the entrance.
4. Its opening was the greatest moment of James’ life
It’s fair to say that James was understandably proud of the school opening its doors for the first time. The night before the facility’s unveiling, he tweeted, “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.”
3. James’ efforts were championed by Michelle Obama
And James’ remarkable achievement didn’t go unnoticed, either, as none other than Michelle Obama posted a tweet championing his success. She said in response to the NBA star, “Kids in Akron and across the U.S. are lucky to have you as a role model on and off the court. Keep using your platform for good and giving our kids a chance to shoot for the stars.”
2. Even James’ on-court rival was impressed by the school
Perhaps even more remarkable than the former First Lady’s statement is the congratulatory message that James received from his on-court rival. Yes, Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry chose to reply “Freaking amazing!” to a report about the school’s opening on Twitter. Although he and James were reportedly close several years ago, they have since seemingly grown apart as Curry’s star has risen.
1. It aims to lead the way nationally
And it appears that James and the school’s staff may have their sights set higher than just making a difference to the Akron community. Indeed, Principal Davis told the Los Angeles Times, “We are going to be that groundbreaking school that will be a nationally recognized model for urban- and public-school excellence.” She added, “We are letting people know that it is about true wrap-around support. True family integration, true compassion.”