I Promise Village: Lebron's Newest Initiative

Going to college in Akron, Ohio has been an eye-opening and enriching experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I have made the most amazing friends, been afforded incredible opportunities, and have gained independence and self-confidence. It is my dream that every child has the opportunities that I have, but that is a lofty goal in Akron where 1 in every 4 residents is in poverty and the unemployment rate is 9.5%. 

Thankfully, LeBron James—famous NBA star, born and raised in Akron, and a local hero to Akron residents—is making strives to change that. James’ foundation, The LeBron James Family Foundation, works with Akron Public Schools (APS) to create opportunities for community enrichment and after-school educational activities. James has even gone above and beyond that to open the I Promise School. 

The I Promise School is famous in Akron and across the country—and for good reason. Opening last summer, this school which currently has third and fourth graders but has plans to expand into a school for third to eighth graders by 2022. The I Promise School has smaller classes, a longer school day, a longer school year, meditation, health and legal services, GED classes for parents, an in-school food pantry, and accepts the lowest performing students in the Akron public school system via a lottery system. At age 8, some of these students were already pegged to not graduate. The students are now excelling with increased test scores and attendance. Upon graduation and after meeting specific requirements, all students will receive a full scholarship to the University of Akron. 

This up-coming summer, James’ new initiative will be opening: I Promise Village. The announcement and accompanying video discussed how many I Promise students and their families cannot focus on education while survival was a primary focus. With the adage “It takes a village” beginning the video, James, the Executive Director of the LeBron James Family Foundation, and the CEO of Graduate Hotels laid out this new initiative’s premise. The historic Westmont apartment in the hipster-going area of Highland Square, roughly five blocks from the I Promise school, will be turned into temporary apartments by Graduate Hotels, a boutique hotel company with hotels typically planted in college towns. These apartments will be for families that are displaced by homelessness; unsuitable housing conditions; and drug, gun and domestic violence—all real and desperate problems in Akron, Ohio. The 22 apartments will be donated to the school to be used as part of its focus on families that sets the public I Promise School apart from other traditional schools.