Akron, Ohio’s new “I Promise” public elementary school is what some critics are calling visionary, more than just a school and the first of its kind. The school is a joint venture between the Public School system and NBA star LeBron James.
The school opened Monday to welcome its 240 third and fourth grade students. For the students fortunate enough to be among the first enrolled, it was misfortune that guided them here. According to USA Today, “the district identified students who were a year or more behind in reading level and then selected 120 kids for each grade.” The students chosen rank among some of the most challenged, at-risk students in Akron. “I Promise” school will give students a fighting chance to prove what they can do. LeBron says, “I know these kids basically more than they know themselves,I walked the same streets. I rode the same bikes on the streets that they ride on. I went through the same emotions. The good, the bad, the adversity. Everything these kids are going through, the drugs, the violence, the guns, everything they’re going through as kids, I know.”
The school is located down the street from the high school that LeBron attended and it is the kind of school dreams are made of. James tweeted, “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!! This school is that. The people are that. Akron is that.”
To inspire the students, little reminders of their benefactor decorate the school. More than 100 pairs of game shoes worn by LeBron as he won three NBA Championships and three MVP titles are on display in the school’s lobby. If you that seems a bit egotistical to you, a mural of great African Americans like Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali and Jesse Owens also are featured on walls. Other details about the school include:
- Certified STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) school
- The school day is long – 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and so is the school year, lasting July 30-May 17 – and there will be a seven-week summer school
- Breakfast, lunch and a snack are served daily for students
- Supplies for students and teachers including free beverages and snacks in teacher’s lounge and access to workout trainers
If the school sounds like Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory –too much hype and no hard work, think again.. For starters, students and staff will have some long days…school starts at 9am. and ends at 5pm.
And students will have to live up to the school’s name. “I Promise” means the students promise to come to class, do their homework, listen to their teachers, be respectful of others and to live a healthy life.
James isn’t the first celebrity to try and improve life for students by putting their name and money behind a school. Oprah Winfrey, Deion Sanders,Will Smith and Magic Johnson have all opened schools. But putting up money and a celebrity name doesn’t guarantee positive results. Smith’s school closed in 2013 amid allegations of ties to the Church of Scientology. Winfrey’s Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa endured negative publicity after an employee was accused of sexually abusing several students. And former NFL star Deion Sanders was fired twice by the school he founded– Prime Prep Academy after allegations of sexual assault were made against him by an employee. The school was also investigated for misuse of funds and a number of other allegations.
Still, LeBron is to be applauded for what seems to be a truly altruistic effort to help children have a brighter future by giving them a better educational start. The school plans to add on higher grades each year and those who graduate from the school will be given tuition to attend college.
Here’s a look at the “I Promise” elementary. Tell us what you think of LeBron’s school.