Philanthropy can take many forms. From generous donations to a cause, running a nonprofit with charitable services, or in the case of Lebron James, investing in a school that not only educates, but empowers.
Lebron James' brand is one of triumphing over adversity, whether winning a championship after being down 3-1, making it from hard times as a kid in Akron, OH, enduring the pressure of being the cover of Sports Illustrated at 17 years old, and doing it all without even a hint of scandal or controversy for decades in the public eye. After accruing a sizable amount of money from his game, his lifetime deal with Nike which nets him around $32 million a year, and millions more from other endorsements to boot, Lebron decided to give back to the community that raised him, so the next generation of Akron kids could thrive in ways he couldn't as a child.
That charity manifested as the I Promise School, listed on the website as an "Akron Public School dedicated to those students who are already falling behind and in danger of falling through the cracks." Mostly teaching elementary-level children, the school had its inaugural year in 2019, widely seen as an experiment to see if the school's policies and style would help kids flourish academically. What style exactly? Well the school is centered around trauma-informed teaching and a STEM curriculum. The teachers try to make a personal connection with the kids, giving them the sense that they matter, they are worth it, and that they can be something great if they put their minds to it.
The New York Times reported that in the first year, of the I Promise's kids, "ninety percent met or exceeded individual growth goals in reading and math, outpacing their peers across the district."
The school really is a victory for public education, as most celebrity-sponsored or charitable schools are made private, which comes with its own issues, I Promise is run by the public school system. The school has an annual budget of $2 Million dollars, provided by the district, and Lebron James' Foundation provides $600,000 a year for additional staff, shrinking class sizes and making it easier to help individual students succeed.
The inaugural class was full of surprises, students received free tuition for either Kent State University or the University of Akron, free bikes for each student, free meals, busing, and even GED and job placement programs for the parents. The school's ambitions and style should definitely be copied, whether by other celebrities and philanthropists willing to give so much, or by other public schools when trying to spend their resources in ways that help the kids. Offering at-risk youth a chance to not only receive the care and attention that children need, but also a chance to make it all the way to college is how we advance as a society, since we are only as strong as we treat our youngest and most vulnerable. So kudos to Lebron James for returning on his promise to his hometown.
Written by Max Olarinde, @mobeige1 on all social media.
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