NBA superstar LeBron James has proved he’s a role model both on and off the basketball court by opening a school for underprivileged children.
The I Promise School will house 240 at-risk third and fourth-grade students in James’ hometown Akron, Ohio.
The school is a joint venture between the LeBron James Family Foundation and Akron Public Schools.
“We just want everything for them,” the three-time NBA champion said. “Everything and more. So it’s going to mean a lot to me.”
James will serve as primary donor to help form the extra-curricular goals of the school. The school’s board will oversee the curriculum development.
The 33-year-old, who recently moved from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Los Angeles Lakers on a four-year contract worth $154m (£116m), hopes the school will help kids who are falling behind in education and struggling at home.
The former Cavs star missed 83 days of school in the fourth grade because his family did not have a car.
Several other families offered care and support, and the following year he started playing basketball.
“School didn’t mean anything to me,” he said. “There were just a lot of empty days, empty nights and just kind of a no-future thought process.
“It was mentally challenging. No kid at eight, nine should have that stress… so I know exactly what a lot of these kids are going through.”
James says having a bike was a huge factor in his childhood as it offered him an escape from dangerous parts of his neighbourhood and the freedom to explore. Because of that, every student will receive a bicycle when they arrive at the school.
Students will also be provided with meals during the day, as well as services to help them deal with stress, or parents who are struggling to make ends meet.
The school will also provide services to families, which include job placement assistance for parents and an on-site food bank from which parents can take food to prepare at home.
“We want to create an environment of family where you want to always be around your family,” said James. “No matter the good and the bad, you always want to be around that support system.
“By using my voice and letting the youth know and the people that need the guidance know that I care for them and I’m going to be their voice, it’s passionate for me, because like I said, sports is just the ultimate to bring people together, so that’s what I’m here for.”
In 2015, James announced an initiative that would pay for more than 1,000 kids to attend college.
He has also funded the ‘Wheels for Education’ programme, which started in 2011 and provides kids with school supplies, access to computers, and a bike as part of a system designed to keep kids motivated to complete their homework and get good grades.