Originally Published: August 6, 2018 7:31 p.m.
The first day of school has come and gone for most local kids in the Prescott, Prescott Valley and surrounding areas.
Pencils, pens, staplers, markers, crayons, tape, scissors, new backpacks, lunch bags and a few new items of clothing likely topped each local parents’ back-to-school list in recent weeks.
The cost to send our children to school doesn’t end there. Breakfast, lunch and snacks, transportation to and from school, or a bike for our little individual independent beings. Even tuition, uniforms and books may be on the list for some of us, depending on the school.
What if I told you that there’s a school in Akron, Ohio, that pays for every penny of these necessities and even more. Sounds like a good deal, right?
Well, that’s exactly what NBA superstar LeBron James has done in his hometown of Akron. The three-time NBA champion through his charitable foundation has committed to invest at least $2 million annually to fund “I Promise School,” an elementary school that opened its doors last week to 240 at-risk third- and fourth-graders.
And by 2022, the school will expand and take on full class sizes for first through eighth grades.
So what does James include for young students and their families who are accepted into this public “I Promise School?”
The list is long, including: free tuition, free uniforms, free bicycle and helmet, free transportation within two miles of the school, free breakfast, lunch and snacks. Also included is a food pantry for families, GED programs and job placement services for parents.
The “I Promise School” will also have longer schools days, reportedly from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If that wasn’t enough, James and his foundation have guaranteed tuition to the University of Akron for every student who graduates.
Yes, you read that right. Free. College. Tuition.
In 2015, James pledged nearly $44 million to help more than 1,000 students receive college tuition to the University of Akron using his “I Promise” program, which will continue at the school moving forward.
To put this into perspective, James’ cash donations to fund the “I Promise School” and the previous tuition program is slightly less than the $68 million the state of Arizona is spending in the next two years to give teachers a raise, according to Arizona’s Office of Education.
James said via his Twitter account on July 29, “The jitters before the first day of school are real right now!!! Tomorrow is going to be one of the greatest moments (if not the greatest) of my life when we open the #IPROMISE School. This skinny kid from Akron who missed 83 days of school in the 4th grade had big dreams…”
Former first lady Michelle Obama responded, tweeting July 31 that, “Kids in Akron and across the U.S. are lucky to have you as a role model on and off the court. Keep using your platform for good and giving our kids a chance to shoot for the stars.”
Although “I Promise School” is costing the Akron Public Schools district $2.9 million to help fund teacher and administrative salaries, benefits, supplies and other base elements of the school, James and his foundation have spearheaded the financial burden through fundraising from other local charities, and have already given more than $2 million in cash to get the project off the ground.
For all that James stands for as a man, a husband, a parent and a basketball player, this project may be his symphony. His defining moment. And what a moment it is.
Brian M. Bergner Jr. is sports editor for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @SportsWriter52, or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Email email@example.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.