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LeBron May Be Leaving Ohio, but His Impact on Education and Philanthropy Will Continue

photo of LeBron James with Akron students
James' I Promise School will open in Akron later this month.

Philanthropic groups in Cleveland say LeBron James’ departure from the Cavs may have an impact on the success of the team, but his commitment to giving back to the community has rubbed off on his former organization. That includes support for local education initiatives.

LeBron James announced last week that he’ll take his NBA career out west, joining the L.A. Lakers in the 2018-2019 season, but in Northeast Ohio, James’ philanthropic endeavors will continue.

The James Family Foundation’s I Promise school will open its doors to 240 third and fourth graders in the Akron Public School District later this month. The school, which will grow each year to eventually house students in grades 1-8, will provide students with wraparound services, specialized STEM curriculum and smaller class sizes because of the foundation’s financial support.

Akron Schools’ Keith Liechty said the larger I Promise program is more than just the elementary school, though. It’s also providing supports to more than 1,300 kids in the Akron system.

“The program has shifted a little bit to trying to change generations, generational poverty, by providing supports to the parents and the kids so that we really change a community,” he said.

I Promise is working to increase Akron’s high school graduation rates by providing mentoring and career experiences for high school students.

In Cleveland, James has also made an impact to the education of young people as the city works to implement the Say Yes to Education program. Say Yes is a partnership of the city’s schools and some philanthropic groups that will provide extra support to Cleveland students.

One of the biggest supports is scholarship money for graduating seniors, which the city must fundraise on its own. The Cavs donated $335,000 to the project this year.

The donation, according to Helen Williams with the Cleveland Foundation, likely wasn’t because of James, but could be the result of his commitment to education in Akron.

“I do think that LeBron, because of his commitment to his hometown, has imbued what generosity means for a community,” Williams said. “So, while I don’t think that was the reason, I do think there was the spirit of LeBron in this.”

The donation for Say Yes scholarships was raised at Cavs watch parties at the Q, held during this year’s NBA playoff run.