CLEVELAND – Forget LeBron James’ legacy on the court. In the big picture, his on-court achievements are noteworthy and impressive, but not life-changing.
James’ philanthropic work with the LeBron James Family Foundation is leaving a meaningful mark on children and families, especially those in the Akron public school system.
For his work to help children in the classroom, the Professional Basketball Writers Association named James the winner of the 2016-17 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award, given to the NBA player, coach or trainer who shows outstanding service and dedication to the community.
“It means a lot,” James told reporters Sunday morning. “I do so much for my community and my foundation does a great job of giving families and kids and the youth an opportunity to better their lives and better their futures. For that part of what I do to be recognized, it’s definitely an award not only for myself and my foundation but all my kids that are a part of my program and all the people that look up to me. It’s their award for sure.”
What started out as a bike ride to encourage students in the classroom has turned into a foundation that provides academic and financial support, mentorship and encouragement for elementary, middle school and high school students.
James’ foundation is transforming lives. Starting in 2025, James, his foundation and supporting sponsors will provide possibly 2,000 full scholarships to the University of Akron for students who participate in James’ “I Promise Program” and meet testing, education, attendance and community-service criteria.
James, who is also a significant donor to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, will provide support for those students and their parents on campus with the I Promise Institute, which will help both groups navigate the demands of college life.
In November, James’ foundation announced he will help launch a new public school in Akron for “Students who are at-risk in reading and who are in need of additional academic intervention before falling further behind their peers.”
The school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018. It will start with third and fourth grades and expand to first and second in the fall of 2019. By 2022, the school will open to students in grades one through eight.
“It’s all about trying to figure out what’s the most important impact you can make,” James said. “Once we started shifting the bike-a-thon into the educational thing – seeing that these kids needed help at that particular point in their lives in the third grade – and started to make it more about that and not only helping the kids but also helping the parents as well, that’s when it became more impactful because you know it can help these kids later on in life.”
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