No matter how you feel about LeBron James on the court, his philanthropy habit off the court makes it hard to really hate the guy.
In his most recent feat of generosity, James announced in a tweet on July 29 that his I Promise School, a public school for at-risk kids, would be opening the following day in James' hometown of Akron, Ohio. To create the institution, the LeBron James Family Foundation and Akron Public Schools united in hopes of instilling a stable, committed work ethic in the struggling Akron school system.
The school is the magnum opus of James' legacy of charity work in the Akron area. In 2015, he donated $41 million in scholarship money to the University of Akron. Since 2004, The Lebron James Family Foundation has been donating millions to Boys and Girls Clubs, After-School All-Stars, the Children’s Defense Fund, Gabriel’s Angle Foundation, and ONEXONE.
LeBron James is really good at dribbling, but luckily for the thousands of kids that benefit from his philanthropy, he's not so good at shutting up.
The I Promise School opened its doors on July 30 to 240 third and fourth graders. Each year, the school will expand to include more grade levels, eventually reaching grades 1-8 by 2022.
James shared with ESPN that opening the I Promise School surpasses any moment of his basketball career, which speaks volumes about the character of a player with three NBA championships and four NBA MVP awards.
“This skinny kid from Akron who missed 83 days of school in the [fourth] grade had big dreams,” tweeted James, referring to himself. “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!!”
As reported by USA Today, the I Promise School will open with a staff totaling 43, including a principal, assistant principal, four intervention specialists, tutor, English as a second language teacher, music teacher, and gym teacher. 12 teachers have been hired, with each classroom capping off at 20 students.
Notably, educational opportunities for the students of I Promise School do not cease upon successful completion of the eighth grade. In fact, contingent upon their high school graduation, LeBron James vows to fully cover each of the student's college tuitions at the University of Akron.
Another distinguishing characteristic of the I Promise School lies in the length of the school days and duration of the year—9 a.m. to 5 p.m., July 30 to May 17. This nearly year-round educational program will provide a stable, encouraging environment for the students to rely on, whether it be a meal or staying out of harm’s way.
“I think first of all, fueling the body keeps the mind sharp,” said James in an interview with ESPN, “…but just keeping them here under our support, keeping them here under our guidance, giving them objectives and criteria that they can match and not feel stressed and feel like they’re family.”
At the I Promise School, “family” does not only indicate the student body, but also the students' families. The school will offer parents and guardians the opportunity to take GED classes, as well as provide job assistance for those who are in need. In addition, students will receive free uniforms and transportation within two miles, taking the burden off of parents or guardians. Support for the whole family further dignifies the I Promise School in its commitment to transforming the lives of its students.
“We have a family resource center housed on the premises of our school because we’re not only into nurturing and loving our students,” said Brandi Davis, the school’s principal, to NPR. “But we are wrapping...our arms around the entire family.”
James received praise from all facets of the media on Twitter, ranging from NBA stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul to journalist Ana Navarro to Senator Kamala Harris.
His biggest criticism, however, came from the President of the United States. President Trump attacked James’ intelligence, along with that of CNN’s Don Lemon, after an interview which took place between the two on July 30.
“Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon,” tweeted Trump on August 4 at 12:37 a.m. “He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”
President Trump’s harsh commentary came after James expressed his displeasure with the way Trump has used sports to partition the country, whereas sports have typically been utilized to unify the country. From within the US to the Olympics, sports are often seen as a common ground between people, giving them a sort of universal objective to rally around.
Almost immediately after he tweeted the message, President Trump faced intense backlash from the media, athletes, celebrities, and thousands of others on Twitter. Even the President’s wife distanced herself from his comments, commending the work James has done and even expressing openness to visiting the I Promise School.
Aside from the president's dramatics, the accolades James’ school have received leave little doubt that I Promise School will be a major success. The work done by LeBron James and Akron Public Schools should be hailed as a step forward in our country's educational future.