On Monday, July 30th the LeBron James Family Foundation (LJFF) and Akron Public Schools (APS) officially opened the doors to the I Promise School (IPS), a brand new public school serving some of Akron’s most challenged students and families. The I Promise School will take an innovative approach to urban public education by implementing best practices and strategic resources designed to educate the whole child both academically and social-emotionally. There will be an intentional focus on creating a nurturing and supportive environment while providing a hands-on, STEM- focused curriculum infused with LeBron’s “We Are Family” philosophy. The I Promise School will also provide complete wraparound services for its families including career, academic, and emotional support. Opening with its inaugural class of 240 third and fourth graders, the I Promise School will gradually fill to a first through eighth grade school by 2022.
“The I Promise School is everything I needed when I was growing up in Akron. Any worry or any hardship I ever had, the people and the programs built into this school would have helped. I’m excited and I’m proud to be able to create this place for my kids in Akron,” said James, who attended Akron Public Schools from kindergarten through eighth grades. “We’re going to do things a little differently in this school because we’ve listened to what our kids and families really need. This school was created for them.”
“Akron Public Schools has one focus — to prepare students for a promising future. The I Promise School will help us achieve that goal. The school has a rigorous learning environment complete with a comprehensive social and emotional support system I Promise students need,” said David W. James, Superintendent Akron Public Schools. “We and our families are grateful to LeBron James and the LeBron James Family Foundation for tremendous support in this innovative and creative approach to education and our students’ future.”
In addition to its hands-on, STEM-focused curriculum and trauma-informed approach, the I Promise School will provide resources and supports to meet both the students’ academic and personal needs. Many of these wraparound services will also extend to their entire families to engage them in the learning process.
The I Promise School’s unique amenities and wraparound supports include:
YEAR-ROUND PROGRAMMING • IPS will operate on a non-traditional schedule and provide year-round programming to increase learning opportunities and eliminate the “summer slide” months. IPS will also implement longer learning days with the school day starting at 9:00am and ending at 5:00pm.
SMALLER CLASS SIZE • In order to maximize hands-on learning, the school will maintain a 20 to 1 student-teacher ratio. All IPS teachers and staff have been hand-selected based on their commitment to the principles of the school and helping IPS students grow academically at least two years in one year.
LOGISTICS AND ESSENTIALS • To eliminate many of the barriers to learning these families are faced with, IPS will provide bus transportation for any student who lives more than two miles away from campus. The school will also offer all of its students free breakfast, lunch and snack daily.
FAMILY RESOURCE CENTER • IPS will have an in-house Family Resource Center that will provide resources and amenities for every family including an individualized I Promise Family Care Plan that helps them navigate daily challenges and facilitate long-term planning. This center will also house LJFF’s I Promise Too program that offers parents the opportunity to earn their GEDs. Other local businesses and city agencies will also be incorporated to support all IPS families.
ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE (ESL) SERVICES • Serving students that speak more than eight different languages, IPS will provide ESL classes for all families and will have all school correspondence translated in their native language.
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL SUPPORTS • IPS will make a strategic effort to engage its students beyond their academics including a daily block of social-emotional learning components focusing on soft skills, belonging, and sense of community. There will also be a total infusion of LJFF’s “We Are Family” philosophy as well as the seven Habits of Promise into both academic and community expectations (Perseverance, Perpetual Learner, Problem Solver, Partner, and Perspective); all developed around the Habits of Mind approach.
EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES • With the school’s focus on hands-on learning, IPS will provide real-world experiences and other learning opportunities through the Foundation’s community partners. This includes the on-campus Kaulig Companies Media Lab created in partnership with WKYC that will offer state-of-the-art technology and production experience.
Founded through a partnership between the LeBron James Family Foundation and Akron Public Schools, the I Promise School is rooted in its deep connections to the community and will thrive on the resources dedicated by LJFF’s long-term partners. With more than forty businesses and organizations committed to LeBron’s vision to create generational change in his hometown, these partners have offered their resources and time to help meet the needs of the I Promise School students.
Sharing in the I Promise School’s emphasis on education as a driver of transformational and societal change, the Peg’s Foundation has invested $2.5 million over five years to the school. This commitment, which encompasses all of the national Foundation’s educational grant money, will help fund IPS’s wraparound services for its families.
Peg’s Foundation is determined to help at risk students access the resources they need to have success in school. We fully embrace LeBron’s vision for a family-focused learning environment that helps Akron youth overcome barriers to education, and provides a pathway for them to fulfill their goals and dreams,” said Peg’s Foundation President, Rick Kellar. “We are proud to commit 100% of our education dollars to this initiative, and truly believe this is a game changer not only for our kids in Akron, but ultimately for other public school districts across the nation. This project has national transformational capability, and we are grateful to LeBron for using his platform to elevate kids in his hometown. Like him, we are committed, we are partners, and we will help keep the promise. We Are Family.”
Following its students’ first official day of school, the LeBron James Family Foundation and Akron Public Schools hosted a grand opening event featuring a special stage presentation – headlined by LeBron and his inaugural class – celebrating all of the partners that make IPS possible.
For more on the I Promise School, visit www.ipromise.school. And for the latest LeBron James Family Foundation news, please visit lebronjamesfamilyfoundation.org.