AKRON — The I Promise School in Akron has gained attention and support since it opened its doors to students in late July.
The school was formed by a partnership between the Akron Public School District and the LeBron James Family Foundation. The school uses the district’s curriculum and through its partnership with the foundation, it has the ability to add wraparound services for students and their families to provide support in the classroom and at home. The school welcomed 240 third and fourth grade students when it opened its doors on July 30. In 2022, the school will welcome first through eighth grades.
The schools model's includes longer school days and a longer school year. The foundation has committed to adding additional teachers to help reduce class sizes.
The foundation’s "We Are Family" philosophy is incorporated into the new school to add support, which includes after school programs, tutors, a food pantry in partnership with the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, and a family resource center.
Since the school's opening, the foundation noted that nearly 700 students and family members used the food pantry in the first month. In one instance, the foundation said a parent used the food pantry to restock their refrigerator at home after their electricity had been turned off for five days. The food bank brought in "nearly 6,000 pounds of food to the pantry in August alone," according to the foundation.
The family resource center has also been used by parents in need of guidance as they navigate through the job field. The foundation said one parent used the center to retrieve her college transcripts in order to apply for a job.
The school has also caught the attention of those around the country, including visual artist Kris Rhymes who traveled from Phoenix, Arizona to gift the school with the “Kings Music," an art piece made of vinyl album covers. Rhymes spent time answering questions from students, tapping into the the school's experiential learning approach, hoping to inspire a new generation of artists.
This weekend, students will get an opportunity to view a special screening of James' new animated movie, Smallfoot. The students will be able to discuss the film-making process and the industry, through the lens of someone who worked on the movie.
Students, both in the I Promise School and in the district-wide program, have also received help in a different way. Hundreds of families received comprehensive eye examinations and, if needed, any eyewear through the foundation's partnership with Northeast Ohio Eye Surgeons (NEOES).
The school also highlights its "social-emotional support" programs, including its “I PROMISE Circles” where students listen and reflect on the words of a song and share their own challenges or triumphs. The foundation said it helps students to focus and strengthen the learning environment.