During our young adult led revival in May, Dr. Otis Moss III and I discussed the National Basketball Association’s upcoming championship finals. Dr. Moss, a native of Cleveland, is an unabashed fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers. I, being from Philadelphia, supported the bygone Philadelphia Warriors. However, in my conversations with Dr. Moss, I learned some things about LeBron James that I did not know — that he is a strong proponent of justice and fairness for low income and at-risk people in his community. Subsequently, I learned of the awesome work he is doing to improve the public schools in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. In an article posted on SBNation, a sports news website, the LeBron James Family Foundation launched a new public K-12 school called the I Promise School, the first of its kind: “I Promise School will feature longer school days, a non-traditional school year, and greater access to the school, its facilities, and its teachers during down time for students. That’s a formula aimed at replicating some of the at-home support children may be missing when it comes to schoolwork. The school has also anchored its curriculum in math and science-based teaching, dipping into the STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math — curriculum that prepares students for the jobs of the future.”
One unique feature of the I Promise School is it is not a charter or private school, but a full-fledged public school within the Akron Public School System. To achieve overall excellence and to accomplish its goals, the I Promise School sought funding from the State of Ohio like other public schools of Akron.
However, “per the State of Ohio, Akron’s schools were given just $10,028 in state and local funds per student in 2016 — more than the statewide average, but still a relatively low figure for a city of a little under 200,000. That is not a lot of money to operate a school with such grand aspirations, which is where the LeBron James Family Foundation comes in. James’ nonprofit is the leader of a group of more than 120 donors, volunteers, and sponsors working to find the resources needed to keep exceptional educators on staff through a more demanding teaching schedule.”
At a time when athletes too often use their resources for lavish personal lives, LeBron James is showing that genuine unselfish service can make a difference in a community. It is no accident that school performance in wealthier communities is higher than in poorer communities. It takes neighborhood support to provide excellent teachers, after school programs and focused tutoring. With the support of James, the I Promise School will compete with the well–to–do surrounding communities to provide the assistance that students need.
If only more of our successful African Americans would follow this model, we could transform our communities in no time.
By the way, Dr. Moss, next season I will cheer and root for whichever team where LeBron James suits up to play!