LeBron James has long supported education initiatives in his hometown of Akron, Ohio and across the country, but this week marks a special moment for the All-Star — the launch of a public elementary school he co-founded.
As reported by Sports Illustrated, the I Promise School is a joint venture between the LeBron James Family Foundation and the Akron, Ohio Public School system. The school's inaugural class will include 240 third and fourth-grade students who were selected based on socioeconomic status and educational performance.
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 school plans to expand to first through eighth grade by 2022, and currently employs more than 40 faculty and staff members in order to offer students both longer school days and a longer school year.
ESPN reports that students who graduate from the program will earn free tuition at the University of Akron starting in 2021.
If free college wasn't cool enough already, the lobby is also decorated with 114 pairs of James' sneakers.
James has won three NBA Championships and three MVP titles, but tweeted earlier this week that the opening of the I Promise School is one of the greatest moments of his life.
James' passion for helping students who are struggling inside and outside of the classroom comes from his own experiences as a child. When he was in fourth grade, James began to miss class and remembers the time as a crucial moment in which his life could have taken a turn for the worse.
"LeBron missed a lot of school in the fourth grade. It's well-documented," Michele Campbell, the executive director of James' foundation tells USA Today. "We all know which path he took. He took the right path with some very good people around him and now we know him as the world's best basketball player. He could've taken the other road, and we would've never known LeBron James. He would've been a statistic like a lot of students who drop out of school.
"Every one of these kids, maybe they don't become LeBron James on the basketball court, but they become the LeBron James of their passion and dream in life."
"I know these kids basically more than they know themselves," said James in a video posted on Twitter. "Everything that they're going through as kids, I know."
The school will open just weeks after it was announced that James would be leaving Cleveland to play for the Los Angeles Lakers.
"It's kind of bitter sweet timing because on this hand I have a brand new school that's opening and I want to be there on a day-to-day basis, 10 toes down for these kids," explained James. "And then on the other hand, I'm moving. I'm moving to Los Angeles. This is kind of like a dream come true for me."
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