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A Promising Start

HOMETOWN HERO Students meet LeBron James on opening day of the I Promise School, in Akron, Ohio. COURTESY THE LEBRON JAMES FAMILY FOUNDATION

There’s a new public school in Akron, Ohio. Teachers greeted students on opening day with cheers and big smiles. But no one had a bigger grin than basketball hero LeBron James.

“This is a huge moment in my life,” James said at the July 30 opening. The I Promise School is his parting gift to Ohio. He recently announced he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now he plays for the Los Angeles Lakers.

IPS opened with 240 students in grades 3 and 4. Students receive free uniforms and bikes. When IPS students graduate from high school, they will get a full scholarship to the University of Akron.

Many IPS students struggle with assignments. Some have had behavior problems. Others are distracted by worries at home. IPS works to help them overcome these challenges.

“LeBron was a public school kid,” Michele Campbell told TIME for Kids. She is the director at the LeBron James Family Foundation. The group developed IPS with Akron Public Schools. She adds, “Helping kids just like him is very important to him.”

TEAM PLAYER James has committed $8 million to fund the I Promise School.


Family Values

James grew up poor in Akron. He moved a lot. He missed 83 days of school in fourth grade. Support from the community helped him get back on track.

IPS wants to support kids in the same way. Every day, IPS begins with an “I Promise circle.” There, kids talk through what is bothering them. The school also has a food pantry.

“All of these things combined create an atmosphere where students feel loved and valued at school,” said Nicole Hassan. She works with Akron Public Schools and IPS.

Student Erialle Turner, 9, says she is already happier at I Promise. “I feel thankful. This school helps me be a better person.”

IPS has one more feature Erialle thinks is especially cool: “It has all of LeBron’s game shoes.”

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