LeBron James on Aug. 16 continued to build on his promise to his hometown of Akron, Ohio. The NBA superstar hosted 5,000 students and their families at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, at the second annual I PROMISE Family Reunion, a part of his education initiative.


LeBron James (Photo: Tony Dejak, AP)

“Can’t wait to see all my kids and their families today at our #WeAreFamilyReunion at @cedarpoint!!” James tweeted Tuesday morning.

Through his LeBron James Family Foundation, the NBA champion launched his “I PROMISE” education initiative in 2011 with an eye toward reducing high school dropout rates and improving other education outcomes for children in Akron. Divided into two tracks—beginning with Wheels for Education, which is open to at-risk third-graders, and the Akron I Promise Network, which supports the students from sixth grade through graduation—the program provides tailored interventions, including mentorship, after-school activities and scholarships.

“I think it’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever been a part of,” James told ESPN in August 2015. “This is very special to me. As a kid growing up in the inner city and as an African American kid, you don’t really think past high school because it’s not possible or your family can’t support you. For us to be able to do something like this … it means so much.”

The Family Reunion serves as an official welcome to the new class of Wheels of Education participants and also as a celebration for the current program participants.

“It’s a kickoff to the new school year. It’s kind of a reward for being part of a wonderful program,” said Desiree Bolden, manager, extended learning program, Akron Public Schools in a promotional video.

“We want these kids to know that we appreciate the hard work that they’ve done in school and just know that their hard work has paid off,” a program volunteer added.

When students enroll in the program, the underlying motto and expectation is that, “In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.”

In 2015, James in partnership with the University of Akron announced that the then-1,100 kids enrolled in the I Promise program and the next four classes would be eligible for four-year college scholarships beginning in 2021 if they completed the program and met attendance and grade requirements.

The school’s College of Education was also renamed after James’ foundation.


Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO