The athlete, through his LeBron James Family Foundation, opened the I Promise School in 2018
The future is looking bright for the students at LeBron James‘ I Promise School.
The inaugural class of the 35-year-old athlete’s school for at-risk children were surprised with free tuition to Kent State University when they recently visited the Ohio college at a part of class trip, according to an announcement made on Wednesday.
“When you show up to @KentState for your 11th grade experience outing, but find out you’re also getting FREE tuition for 4 years AND a year of free room & board‼️ 😱😭” the LeBron James Family Foundation — which founded the academy in 2018 — said in a tweet.
A video of the students reacting to the news was also shared to the I Promise School’s social media pages. “OMG. This is amazing @kentstate. 😭👏,” the institution wrote. “Continue blazing the trail for us @ljfamfoundation 11th graders. #IPROMISE.”
In the heartwarming clip, students from the first graduating class gather inside an auditorium at Kent State University before they are told that they’ll be receiving four years of guaranteed college tuition and a year of complementary housing. As the kids erupt in cheers, their parents — who are watching a live feed of their reactions in a separate room — burst into tears of joy.
“You are Mr. LeBron James’ first class. His first love. It all started because of you,” Melody Tankersley, the interim senior vice president at Kent State, told the children in the video.
Kent State President Todd Diacon added, “We are doing this because we know the transforming power of higher education.”
Through his LeBron James Family Foundation, James officially opened the I Promise School as an addition to the Akron Public Schools in his hometown of Akron, Ohio in 2018. The Los Angeles Laker’s school serves over 1,300 students.
The I Promise School was built to serve at-risk students, but also offers their parents an opportunity to finish high school as well as the opportunity to receive free tuition to the University of Akron upon graduation, according to ESPN.
In addition, attendees receive free breakfast, lunch and snacks, as well as a free bike, according to Time. Students also have access to a fitness trainer.
Last year, the New York Times reported that children at the academy have seen their math and reading scores skyrocket since its opening in July 2018. After participating in the Measures of Academic Progress assessment, which scores efficiency in reading and math, 216 of 240 students were found to have met or exceeded their expected growth at the mid-year mark.
“These kids are doing an unbelievable job, better than we all expected,” James, 35, told the newspaper of the children’s progress at the time. “When we first started, people knew I was opening a school for kids. Now people are going to really understand the lack of education they had before they came to our school.”
He continued, “People are going to finally understand what goes on behind our doors.”