LeBron James Family Foundation's I Promise School opens in Akron


AKRON, Ohio – When the LeBron James Family Foundation I Promise School opens today, 240 at-risk Akron school children will get their first glimpse at a pathway designed to spell success for themselves and their families.

The I Promise School, built through a partnership between Akron Public Schools and the foundation, will welcome third-and fourth graders at 400 West Market St in Akron. By 2022, it will house grades first through eighth and will number nearly 1,000 kids.

On Sunday, school officials have tours to the media. Here are some highlights.

All the students attending the I Promise School are under-performing in reading, math and other essential academic areas. The current students were selected randomly from a larger group of at-risk kids. The curriculum is STEM-based and will educate the kids through hands-on approach.

One example is the new high-tech media lab that mirrors a television studio with live broadcasting capabilities. The lab, sponsored by Hudson-based Kaulig Companies Limited, will enable the students to broadcast daily school updates, while learning the latest technology.

It’s a school unlike any other in the Akron School District.

School days run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., July through May, to eliminate what educators call the “slide” that many kids experience over the summer. During the seven weeks between the next school year, various STEM-based camps will be offered.

But what makes I Promise unique is the “We Are Family” philosophy behind everything the school offers. That means the children and their parents or caregivers receive the academic, career and emotional support that they need to ensure a better life.

It is a manifestation of the support LeBron James and his mother, Gloria James, received when James was attending Akron schools, said Foundation Executive Director Michele Campbell.

Through the Family Resource Center, the school will offer the wrap-around services that some families need for day-to-day survival, from a daily food pantry stocked by the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank to GED classes for parents and caregivers.

The Summit County Department of Jobs and Family Services also will have representatives on hand daily to help the students’ family members secure jobs and other services.

“We are family, we live it day to day,” Campbell said.

In addition to an academic program, the I Promise School will use a “trauma-informed” approach to engaging students to show them a safe, supportive environment.

That includes:

  • Daily breakfast with their teachers
  • A daily time for social-emotional learning, to develop habits of promise, belonging and a sense of community
  • A daily supportive circle after lunch each day to help kids unwind from recess and refocus on learning
  • An infusion of the so-called “Habits of Promise,” which encompasses perseverance, perpetual learning, problem solving, partnering and perspective

All the students will have breakfast, lunch and a snack each day. Those who live more than two miles from school will have daily bus transportation.

All told, more than 1,300 Akron school children and their families are in the I Promise program, which has a presence in all the schools across the district. All eligible students in the program who graduate from high school and complete specific classroom criteria are guaranteed a four-year college scholarship, which James partnered with the University of Akron in 2015 to provide.

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