The 193 students in the inaugural class of LeBron James’s I Promise School have been offered something remarkable: free four-year tuition to nearby Kent State University, plus a year of free room and board. The NBA superstar, who grew up in Akron, Ohio, and was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers, started the I Promise Network through his LeBron James Family Foundation in 2011, when this first class of students was in third grade. The I Promise School opened in Akron in 2018.
James’s foundation is currently providing support to more than 1,400 students in Akron, offering mentoring programs, college prep, and support for families. The inaugural class is currently in their junior year of high school, so they’ll be eligible for the Kent State offer in the 2021-2022 school year, provided they’re granted acceptance to Kent State. Graduates of the I Promise School who meet certain eligibility requirements are already offered four-year scholarships to the University of Akron.
The Kent State program is designed to make sure that the underprivileged students who have participated in the I Promise academic system won’t be kept from attending college due to financial restrictions. The initiative will cover whatever tuition remains after the accepted students receive financial aid, and will require them to remain in good academic standing to continue to access the funding.
Kent State University President Todd Diacon told the students about the Kent State program while they were visiting the university on a recent field trip. He told them to look under their seats and open the envelopes they would find there, which contained news of the tuition offer. Cheers echoed through the room when the students learned of their free tuition opportunity, per the Akron Beacon Journal.
“The I Promise program is built on the ‘earned, not given’ philosophy,” said Michele Campbell, executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation, the Akron Beacon Journal reported. “We are so excited that our students that have worked incredibly hard have earned even more life-changing opportunities to grow and excel. We are so thankful to the entire Kent State family for believing in our students and providing exactly the type of programming and support they need to be successful not only in school, but in life.”
This offer will be extended past the I Promise inaugural class, too. “Our plan is to offer the same opportunity to future I Promise classes as well,” said Melody Tankersley, Kent State’s interim senior vice president and provost.