LeBron James is putting his money where his mouth was when the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar told his fellow professional athletes at this past summer’s ESPY Awards to “go back to our communities, invest our time, our resources, help rebuild them, help strengthen them, help change them.”
The LeBron James Family Foundation announced Thursday an extension of its pledge of guaranteed four-year University of Akron scholarships to the more than 1,000 Akron public school students enlisted in its “Akron I PROMISE Network.” Those students, identified as “at risk” of failing to graduate high school, will now receive support at the university from the LJFF’s newly launched “I PROMISE Institute Bureau,” an “around-the-clock” program designed to ensure they graduate college as well.
“When we first started this program, I wanted my kids to graduate from high school,” James said in a press release. “But the more we grow as a Foundation, the more we find can be done to give our kids the best chance to be successful. We don’t just want our kids to get to college, we want them to graduate from college. And we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to help them do that.”
The institute will be based inside the University of Akron’s football stadium, where educators will provide mentoring and tutoring services coordinated by Paul A. Herold, a retired special assistant to the university’s board of trustees, Dr. Brian O. Hemphill, president of Virginia’s Radford University, and Dr. Brandi Hephner LaBlanc, vice chancellor of student affairs at the University of Mississippi.
The first class of students supported by the foundation’s Akron I PROMISE Network, which was launched in 2015, is currently enrolled in eighth grade and scheduled to attend college in 2021. The I PROMISE Institute Bureau will be funded by the LJFF and Sprite, one of James’ many endorsements.
Asked about this initiative after practice, James called his foundation “the No. 1 thing in my life” beyond family. “Being able to change kids and families, giving them an opportunity to see better days, we strive to day that every single day,” he told Cleveland.com.”And I get emails and I talked to my kids weekly about their progression in elementary (school) all the way to the kids in middle school, high school and the kids that are going to be going to college soon. So, that’s a huge thing for me.”
In 2016, the Akron City School District reported a four-year graduation rate of 74.7 percent, well below the national rate of 82.3 percent, and received a grade of F from the Ohio Department of Education.
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