In a life-changing announcement, the LeBron James Family Foundation gifted students in the first class enrolled in James’ I Promise School four years’ free tuition at Kent State University. In addition, all 193 high school juniors will receive a free room and meal plan in their first year. The students got the surprise during a visit to the Kent State campus: Sitting in an auditorium, they retrieved letters from under their seats that read, "Kent State guarantees your tuition-free for four years! You will also receive a free room and meal plan for your first year." A video of the announcement was shared by the foundation on Twitter on Wednesday.
Los Angeles Lakers Basketball star LeBron James founded the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, in 2018. The school first opened up to underprivileged elementary school students, later expanding to accept children in third through eighth grades. The I Promise Program, operating since 2011, provides more than 1,400 students with resources and academic support, the James Family Foundation’s website notes. In addition to education programs, the school opened by the foundation offers free uniforms, meals, and transportation.
Kent State announced that the free-tuition program is a result of an existing partnership between the university and the foundation, through which the foundation’s students attend college preparation programs during the summer. Melody Tankersley, interim senior vice president and provost at Kent State said, the students first became a part of the I Promise Program as third graders and since then have demonstrated their diligence.
Michele Campbell, executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation, praised the students’ hard work. The I Promise Program, she said, is “built on the ‘earned, not given’ philosophy.” The oldest class, currently juniors, are eligible for the free tuition program as college freshmen in the 2021-2022 academic year. To be eligible for free tuition, students must first be successfully admitted to the school, fill out all required paperwork, and be committed to community service each semester; each year the students must also remain in good academic standing and continue participating in community service to remain in the program.
This isn’t the only free tuition program James has offered students. In 2018, James announced a partnership with the University of Akron that guaranteed free tuition to all eligible students who finished his program. After a Lakers game on Wednesday, James spoke to the media about the importance of education and how much this opportunity meant to both him and his students. "We have so many options, and I just know that so many kids in my community just don't have many options," James said. "So for me to be able to be in a position where I can give these kids options to decide what they want to do with their future, it's probably the best thing I've ever done."