The I Promise School, a public elementary school with free tuition, based in Akron, Ohio opened last July. Akron native and the most famous basketball player alive, LeBron James, is the man behind the innovative new school. The school was originally open to only third and fourth graders. However, it is set to add a grade each year with the goal of serving each grade up to eight by the year 2022.
The partnership between Akron and the LeBron James Family Foundation led to the formation of The I Promise School, whose name stems from the promise held by each student.
Students promise to go to school. They promise to have their homework done. They promise to be obedient to teachers. Moreover, students promise to ask questions and find answers. Also, they promise to be respectful of others and live a healthy life. Here are some of the rare significances attached to the I Promise School.
Born Out of a Passionate Desire
The idea for the school was birthed in 2011. LeBron, who experienced a rough education, missing 83 days of school as a 4th grader due to family issues, researched and found out about the high rate of high school dropouts in the Akron area. His findings inspired his commitment to the creation of the “I Promise Initiative”, a concept of which the “I Promise School” is a subset.
Unconventional School Hours
The I Promise School has goals that are different from any other school. Thus it’s schedule is completely different. The school runs from 8 am till 5 pm. Apart from the difference in time during regular school hours, the long summer vacation is also shortened and complemented with short breaks across the whole year. This unique schedule is one of the unique features that make The I Promise School stand out from many other schools within and outside Akron.
Job Assistance and Placement for Parents
The LeBron James family foundation laid down a plan to offer General Education Development (GED) tests assistance to families, parents and guardians who lack enough education to seek a well-paying jobs.
Parents of at-risk students who are less privileged and unable to earn a high income due to deficiencies in their educational background, now stand a chance of progressing or resurrecting initially curtailed careers due to lack of adequate education. This scheme has dramatically helped both parents and students to focus on playing their respective roles.
The I Promise School acknowledges that both physical health and mental health both have a strong relationship with the growth of an individual. With the lengthy school hours at the I Promise School, it is not only necessary to have a well-planned meals program, but equally crucial to ensure adequate nutrition. This is especially important because many students arrive to school on an empty stomach.
However, meals at the I Promise School are not only limited to lunch, it also includes breakfast. This helps students become more focused as the distraction that can be caused by hunger has been taken care.
Free Bicycle and Helmet
In keeping with the value placed on physical health and nutrition, Lebron made it a point of duty to provide free bicycles and helmets for all students. This doesn’t only eradicate the issue of lateness, but it also strengthens the students physically. With this, students can now be punctual as the delay that could emanate from transportation problems has been taken care of. This also helps them mentally as the sense of ownership also inspires a sense of responsibility.
Access to Fitness Trainers
The I Promise School opened in July 2018 with forty-three staff. The staff recruitment was not only limited to the traditional teaching staff, but a mix of both teachers and other staff members to address the non-academic needs of students.
The staff consist of a principal, assistant principal, and four intervention specialist tutors. There is also an English as a second language teacher, music instructor, and surprisingly, a fitness trainer. Again, the care in staff selection shows LeBron’s commitment to fostering the growth of each student. I’ve worked in schools before and can attest to how the lack of investment when it comes to hiring non-academic staff can hinder the growth of each student. It can also wrongfully promote a culture where letter grades and test scores are the end game, rather than the mental, physical and emotional development of the student.
As the end of high school approaches, the fear of college application fees and the process of applying for financial aid can be overwhelming. For this reason, the I Promise School offers every single student that completes the school program and graduates from high school a full tuition scholarship at the University of Akron. Yes, you heard that right, tuition is covered by LeBron James.
Hopefully, students who make it to the university level and graduate would keep LeBron’s generosity and the commitment of the I Promise School staff in mind and pay their generosity forward to future generations.
Apart from the significant school commitments mentioned above, social intervention is another excellent focus of the school. The job of the I Promise School doesn’t end within its walls. The school also goes beyond classroom learning to provide students with a seven-week summer session. The summer session is aimed at helping them improve their social-emotional development. Students participate in a “supportive circle.” Thus, balancing the lifestyle of the students on and off the school grounds.
The I Promise School’s setting is exceptional and goes beyond the usual school experience. The difference is not only the free tuition, meals and bikes. In fact, it’s not even about the extremely generous university sponsorship.
The core significance of the I Promise School lies in its “We Are Family” philosophy. Not only the students, but their parents or caregivers also receive the academic, career and emotional support that they need to ensure a better life for their family.
As someone who has spent time in the education field, I’m genuinely excited about the innovation LeBron brings with the I Promise School. It’s not a gimmick or publicity stunt. In every detail we see LeBron’s commitment to fix the flaws in education that he experienced as a child or witnessed growing up in Akron.
We can debate all day about whether LeBron is the GOAT or better than MJ, but there’s no debating that LeBron is doing his part to fix the education inequalities in America. We can all learn a lesson from the King turned school founder.
Not only is Lebron changing lives for students but he’s also impacting the Lakers in a monumental way! Read more here!