LeBron James opened his I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, last summer to back to his community. He is continuing to do so with his announcement Thursday of a $1 million grant from the Dick's Sporting Goods Foundation that will build a new gym at the school.
James made the announcement at his alma mater, St. Vincent St. Mary High School, saying that the gym at the I Promise School will be used for physical education and after-school activities while also serving as a safe space for children.
“To my kids, this is more than a gym,” James said in a video posted by the Akron Beacon Journal. “The Dick’s Sports Matter program is helping us provide even more opportunities. An opportunity to play and learn in a safe place that many don’t have access to. I can’t imagine where my friends and I would be if it weren’t for the coaches and teachers who cared about us and the opportunities we had.”
The details as to when and the cost of the gym were not included in a news release issued early Friday morning, the Akron Beacon Journal reports. The Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation was established in 2011 and its Sports Matter Community Grant Program -- launched in 2018 -- benefits high-poverty, local youth sports teams, leagues and schools.
The 240-person population of third- and fourth-graders is made up of students “identified by Akron Public Schools as behind in critical academic areas and other factors.” James insisted last July that his institution be a public school, as he could relate to the pitfalls that Akron youth must face.
“I believe the sky is the limit for these kids and the results we’re seeing are just the beginning,” James said Thursday. “Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation believes in the opportunities and values sports provide, and I’ve experienced that at every level. I saw it growing up with my teammates and I see it with my kids now. The benefits of playing sports can extend to every aspect of your life, and I’m excited we’re able to provide a space for that growth at the I Promise School.”
The school boasts a 20-to-1 student-teacher ratio, year-round programming and a 9-to-5 school day to keep its children engaged.
Understanding the challenges that come with being underprivileged in Akron, the I Promise School also provides all of its students free breakfast, lunch and snack. Bussing is provided for kids who live within two miles, and every child receives a free bike — something that James said helped kept him out of trouble growing up.
The opening of the school also included providing services for the students’ parents, including an on-site food bank and programs that give them the opportunity to earn their GEDs.