By: Kelly Washington-Staff Writer, The Drive Student Blog
For LeBron James, social justice transcends sports stardom. A major example of that is the opening of James’s I Promise School for at risk students. James, who has won three NBA championships and four league-MVPs, called the school opening the greatest moment of his career.
The school selected area students from among those who trail their peers by a year or two in academic performance. “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,” Keith Liechty, the Akron Public Schools’ liaison to James’ foundation, told USA Today.
Forty-three staffers will help run the I Promise School — including not just teachers but also a principal, assistant principal, four intervention specialists, plus a tutor, English as a second language teacher, music instructor, and gym teacher, USA Today reports. Classrooms will hold 20 students per teacher.
Unlike celebrities Sean “Diddy” Combs (founder of the Harlem Academy) and ESPN analyst Jalen Rose (co-founder of the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy) who both backed charter schools, James’s I Promise School is a traditional public school. However it is anything but ordinary. Every incoming student will receive school supplies, uniforms, and bicycles. James was intent on giving every student a bike because his bike was an escape from the dangerous neighborhoods in which he was raised. “I know exactly what these 240 kids are going through,” James said in front of the new school. “I know the streets they walk. I know the trials and tribulations that they go through. I know the ups, the downs. I know everything that they dream about. I know all the nightmares that they have because I’ve been there. They’re the reason why this school is here today.”
The I Promise School days run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m and the school year runs from July to May. There is also going to be a seven week summer session in which the school will provide STEM based camps. The students will be served breakfast, lunch, snacks and have access to a fitness trainer. Students also will spend time each day on social and emotional learning, and participate in a supportive circle after lunch to help them refocus so that they can get through the remainder of their day.
Since the school considers education to be not just for the pupil but for the whole family, it will offer GED classes and job placement assistance for parents and guardians.
“I think the missing link in public education is that family wraparound support,” said Brandi Davis, the school’s principal and Akron native. “Because our students come to school and they’re worried about things at home. … We want to create that safe, that secure and that caring and loving environment for our families and our students so that our kids can focus on education.”
Students get one other major benefit: If they successfully complete the school program and graduate from high school, James will cover their full tuition at the local public college, University of Akron.
The Akron school district expects to spend a total of $8.1 million over the next five years for the I Promise school, according to a report in Akron’s Beacon Journal. James’ family foundation will cover the costs of other extra school features, and with its partners has already contributed $2 million for building upgrades, extra staffing and other needs, the paper notes.
“I don’t have a ceiling to how much I can improve my game,” James told ESPN. “And we as a foundation don’t have a ceiling on how much we can improve our community, to a point where we have a school.”
Sports Analyst Chris Broussard says on LeBron opening a public school on Akron, “LeBron James has set a new blueprint for African American athletes in what they can and should do to help their communities.”
What do you think? Has LeBron set a new precedence on how athletes can use their platform? Not bad for someone who was told to just, “Shut up, and dribble.”
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