LeBron James Kept A Promise He Made To Students In His Hometown And Was There To Celebrate

"Akron, Ohio, is always home for me. Always."

Last year, NBA star LeBron James announced that his foundation was partnering with Akron Public Schools to open a school for at-risk youth in the city where he grew up. On Monday, the I Promise School opened its doors, and James was there to welcome the first students.

According to the Los Angeles Times, 240 third- and fourth-graders started at the school this week. They were randomly chosen from a pool of Akron students whose reading levels were behind where they should be. Next year, the school plans to welcome first- and second-graders, with students through the eighth grade attending by 2022.

The I Promise School prides itself on using a "wraparound" approach which addresses students' and parents' needs outside of the classroom. The school will reportedly provide job services, GED opportunities, and a food pantry. Every student will receive a bicycle and a Chromebook. There is also a seven-week summer camp to help keep kids out of trouble when school is out. According to The Associated Press, school hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

James, who recently joined the Los Angeles Lakers, knows firsthand what a difference a school like this can make in students' lives. He reportedly missed 83 days of school in the fourth grade, as his mother didn't have a car. The L.A. Times points out that Akron schools are "some of the lowest-performing in Ohio."

"I know exactly what these 240 kids are going through," James said at the school's opening, according to AP. "I know the ups the downs. I know everything they dream about. I know all the nightmares they have, because I've been there."

The I Promise School also supports its faculty by providing psychological services, career development, and even a personal trainer who is available for teachers who want to work out. All their supplies are also provided, which is a big deal considering how many teachers around the country have to stock their classrooms out of their own pockets.

"Know no matter if I'm playing in Los Angeles or not, Akron, Ohio, is always home for me. Always," James said at the school's opening.

The basketball star has been committed to providing educational opportunities to students in his hometown for years, through the LeBron James Family Foundation's I Promise Program. In 2015, James announced his intention to send eligible kids in the program to college for free, with thousands of students potentially benefiting. 

As James said on Monday, "Us as adults have a responsibility to not let these kids down, because those kids are our future."

Cover image: Jason Miller / Getty Images

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