LeBron James announced a major new step in his involvement with at-risk children in Akron, Ohio, his home town. The Cleveland Cavaliers star said Tuesday that his charitable foundation will create a new public school, one planned to open in the fall of 2018.
The I PROMISE School will take its name from an existing program by the LeBron James Family Foundation, which has expanded from helping youngsters reach academic goals and learn life skills to similarly assisting some parents, as well. The school will be designed in partnership with the Akron public schools system, and students will be chosen by a lottery.
“This school is so important to me because our vision is to create a place for the kids in Akron who need it most — those that could fall through the cracks if we don’t do something,” James, 32, said in a statement. “We’ve learned over the years what works and what motivates them, and now we can bring all of that together in one place along with the right resources and experts. If we get to them early enough, we can hopefully keep them on the right track to a bigger and brighter future for themselves and their families.”
“The targeted eligible population will be similar to LJFF’s current students: students who are at-risk in reading and who are in need of additional academic intervention before falling further behind their peers,” the foundation said in a news release. “IPS will be for the students in Akron growing up like LeBron did. It will work to create a supportive and safe environment that provides infrastructure and stability so that learning can be the focus.”
Plans call for the school to open with third- and fourth-grade classes, then add first- and second-grade classes in 2019. By 2022, the school is slated to have first through eighth grades, pending approval from Akron officials.
Begun in 2011, the I PROMISE program is aimed at lowering Akron’s high school dropout rate by targeting underprivileged children who have begun to fall behind by third grade. The foundation said the new school will use the Akron public school curriculum, but augment it “with a STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics], hands-on, problem-based learning focus infused with LJFF’s ‘We Are Family’ philosophy to create an innovative and supportive learning environment for its students and their families.”
“We know this is going to be successful because LeBron James has brought a community of partners, resources and expertise, and with the help of these partners we’re ready to take this next huge step,” foundation executive director Michele Campbell said to cleveland.com.
In 2015, James announced a partnership with the University of Akron to provide free college educations to as many as 2,300 at-risk children from that city.