Clevelanders have been fortunate to bear witness to living legend LeBron James since he was just a kid playing basketball at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron. His legacy includes a massive boost to the area's economy, the Cleveland Cavaliers' first championship title and now James continues to serve as a beacon of hope for Akron's youth with the opening of his public school, I Promise.
The I Promise School, which is part of the Akron Public Schools, opens Monday for 240 third- and fourth-graders. The school will expand year by year, going to second and fifth grades next year, ending with grades first through eighth by 2022.
James' I Promise School is not just a new location for learning, but also intends on offering academic support, as well as educational, career and emotional support for the 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 said to USA Today. “We are letting people know it is about true wrap-around support, true family integration and true compassion.”
According to Keith Liechty, the Akron Public Schools' liaison to the James' Foundation, they looked at reading data and identified students who were a year or two behind in the subject. From there, a random selection was made of all students who met that criteria and invited them to be a part of the I Promise School.
I Promise is a partnership between the City of Akron and the LeBron James Family Foundation. The name of the school stems from the foundations road map for students who promise to go to school, do their homework, listen to teachers, ask questions and find answers, be respectful of others and live a healthy life.
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... https://t.co/PwmRaHRfng— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 29, 2018
LeBron posted about his "first day of school" jitters last night on Twitter, even acknowledging his own troubled path as an elementary school student. James attended Akron Public Schools for eight years, and his mom, Gloria James, had help from the community – people who looked after them and made sure they got what they needed. It was this sense of kindness and "it takes a village" that has inspired James to pass it forward and encourage Akron students to thrive.
big dreams for the kids in Akron to give them everything they could need to find their passion, give back to our community and change the world!! This school is that. The people are that. Akron is that. @LJFamFoundation we've always done it big— LeBron James (@KingJames) July 29, 2018
Executive director of James’ foundation, Michele Campbell teared up when talking to USA Today on Sunday, “Every one of these kids, maybe they don’t become LeBron James on the basketball court, but they become the LeBron James of their passion and dream in life. We’re coming to them at a time when people came to LeBron and Gloria and wrapped around them and believed in them before he was this great basketball player.”
The I Promise School is a renovated school building located down the street from St. Vincent-St. Mary, featuring a split staircase with the IPS and LeBron James Family Foundation logos. High on the walls at the entrance are 114 sneakers worn by James. Corresponding pairs will be sold by Upper Deck and proceeds will help fund the school and the foundation.
The bottom floor of the building features a mural of incredible and iconic black heroes including James, Muhammad Ali, Jackie Robinson, Jesse Owens and Martin Luther King Jr.
School supplies will be provided for all students, as well as breakfast, lunch and a daily snack. Teachers will be given all of the tools they require, including a faculty lounge stocked with snacks and beverages and access to workout trainers.
Each classroom will hold 20 students for every teacher and 43 academic staffers have been hired. I Promise School is a certified STEM (science, technology, engineering, match) school, and has an unconventionally long school year of Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., lasting from July 30-May 17.