LeBron James’ school for at-risk kids in Akron could set new standard for athletes

On Monday, LeBron James is set to unveil what he’s called “the most important” project of his professional career: a school.

The LeBron James Family Foundation I Promise School is based in Akron, Ohio, James’ hometown, and will house 240 students — 120 third-graders and 120 fourth-graders. It was built in partnership with Akron Public Schools and is for children at risk of falling behind.

By 2022, the school will house nearly 1,000 kids in grades first through eighth.

“Besides having three kids and marrying my wife, putting my mom in a position where she never has to worry about anything ever again for the rest of her life, this is right up there,” James said in November of the school. “Championships, MVPs, I mean, points, rebounds and assists, that stuff is, whatever.”

James battled poverty and homelessness growing up, at one point missing large chunks of school in fourth grade. He wanted to build a school for children like him growing up to not only provide better education but to provide better life infrastructure.

According to Cleveland.com’s Jennifer Conn , James’ school will look slightly different than other public schools. The hours will be from 9-5. The school year goes from July 30 to May to eliminate what experts call the “slide” that occurs during summer vacation. Through the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, the I Promise School will also help provide food for families who may not be able to provide proper nutrition. There are after-school programs to keep kids from getting into trouble when the school day ends.

Kids who graduate from high school and follow certain classroom criteria can also earn a four-year scholarship to the University of Akron, which James has also partnered with.

There is also a program for parents to earn their GEDs and continue their education.

On Sunday, James excitedly tweeted about the project.

Many professional athletes partake in charitable endeavors. Some spend millions of dollars on their off-court projects, the breadth and depth of which can be hard to list in one place.

James isn’t the first athlete to open a school, but he may be the most notable figure to open a public school. Some athletes have opened charter schools to varying success — Jalen Rose’s is doing well while Deion Sanders’ is not .

It’s easy to see other athletes emulating James. James is already one of the most iconic and influential athletes in the world. Not every player has the resources to build their own public school, but for those who do, James may be creating a pathway. For athletes already dedicated to improving their community or improving the livelihood of younger generations — Kevin Durant, for instance, has also paid for some Bay Area students’ first year of college tuition — James could set an example.

James’ school is aimed at reform. Some of its policies and structure could change a city and the overall school system. It might help a new generation. James’ economic impact on Cleveland has been studied before — how his making the Cleveland Cavaliers competitive may have been a benefit to the economy. His real impact might be improving literacy rates and creating actual jobs with the school.

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