23 Big Dreams: Juwan Coates

AKRON - In this “23 Big Dreams” series, the LeBron James Family Foundation and its broadcast partner, WKYC, highlight a new Akron Public School student and his or her career aspirations each week. With a tuition and fees scholarship from The University of Akron, the commitment of college has changed their personal goals and their expectations for their futures. Like LeBron, these are just kids from Akron with big dreams.

The vision is so clear. In Juwan Coates’ big dream, he is walking down a crowded street and looks down to see a stranger wearing a pair of the signature shoes he designed. Inspired by a pair of LeBrons he saw launch many years ago,

Juwan has been sketching shoes for as long as he can remember. The 13-year-old from NIHF STEM middle school in Akron pulls inspiration from everything around him to create his one-of-a-kind designs, and to date he’s drawn more than 40 unique pairs of shoes. But he is very careful to keep his sketch pad close and under tight wraps until the time to reveal his designs are right.

“It would mean a lot to me because it is one of my biggest dreams,” he says when describing what that day will feel like when he sees someone wearing the shoes he designed by hand. “If I keep drawing, keep getting inspiration from life, and keep working hard in school, I know I can do it.”

A very ambitious kid and one of LeBron’s original Akron I PROMISE Network students, Juwan is motivated in school by the promises he makes to LeBron, which has led him to taking honor-level classes this year. He says that the promise is very big for him because it helps him set goals during the school year and then work really hard to reach them.

Another huge source of motivation for Juwan is LeBron’s and The University of Akron’s commitment of a four-year college scholarship that he has the opportunity to earn through his hard work.

“It changes my life,” says Juwan. “It lets me know that I can go to a good school and have a chance to play Division-1 basketball. It just makes me more excited for my future than ever before.”

His mom, Latoya Coates, who is still on cloud nine from the initial scholarship announcement adds, “As long as he does what he’s supposed to, and he will, he has that scholarship waiting for him. It means everything.”

Watching LeBron James work hard and rise from humble beginnings to become an NBA Champion and international icon has shown Juwan that anything is possible, even for a young kid from Akron.

“When I saw LeBron get drafted, that right there let me know I can make it, and that makes me work even harder,” he says with supreme confidence in not only his talent, but more importantly, in his work ethic.

He knows it’s going to take a monumental load of hard work to become a professional basketball player and to design his own line of signature shoes. But with the confidence that LeBron, the Foundation, and The University of Akron have given him simply by believing in him, Juwan is determined to do whatever it takes to make his big dreams a reality.


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