LeBron James Funds a Public School That Focuses on “At-Risk” Youth Academic Achievement

LeBron James opened a school. That’s right. A school. A school, as in the place where the learning happens. LeBron James, the man that some poor excuse of a “journalist” dared to tell “shut up and dribble” some months ago, is going above and beyond trying to chip away at the inequities of America’s school system.

This public, emphasis on public, school will serve the “at-risk” youth in the Akron, Ohio community; a group that James can not only empathize with, but relate to. When James was in the 4th grade he had trouble getting to school consistently due to he and his mother having a hard time securing housing as they moved from spare room to couch to wherever they could find. He ended up missing a total of 83 days of school that year.

James credits those that mentored him in shifting the trajectory of his life. People stepped in to ensure that James would succeed. He was able to then attend every day of school in the fifth grade which also happened to be the first time he participated in organized basketball.

“It’s not a charter school, it’s not a private school, it’s a real-life school in my hometown,” James told ESPN, “And this is pretty cool.”

The inaugural class of the ‘I Promise’ school is comprised of 240 third and fourth grade students. The school, that is a collaboration effort between James and the Akron Public School system, offers a longer school day (9-5), a longer school year (July – May), a STEM focused curriculum, meal services, a science and tech camp aimed at helping students that need extra help in progressing academically and a number of services that will help students’ families. Some of those services include a GED program, a food pantry, and job placement services for the parents.

Keith Liechty, the Akron Public Schools’ liaison to James foundation, explained that, “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?’”

Every student will also receive the perk of getting a Chromebook and a bicycle, something they probably never dreamed of having. Last, but certainly not least, students who successfully complete the program and graduate from high school will have the full amount of their tuition covered at University of Akron, the local public college, by James.

This is beyond philanthropy. This is what equity looks like. This is not a school designed for students that are excelling academically. This school is for the students that often get left behind or forgotten about. The students selected to go to this school are the ones falling behind their peers in years of academic performance. While each student is unique, they are similar in that due to circumstances beyond their control, be it a difficult at-home life, transportation, or learning disabilities, they have fallen behind.

While James shouldn’t have to shoulder the responsibilities of fixing America’s public school system, it is admirable that he has chosen to do what he can to let children know that  someone cares about them. This is possible for America’s public school system. Let this be a blueprint. It is time to demand more from the government because this should be the standard.