COLUMN: Lebron’s I Promise School deserves more praise and less criticism


Almost a month ago, Lebron James announced the opening of his “I Promise” school, a completely free and public school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. 

The school is unlike any other public school in its area, offering not only STEM and art programs for students, but also GED and job-placement classes for parents. The school services also include free breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as free uniforms and opportunities for educational summer camps.

This new school is attempting to completely intertwine home and school life in order to keep a communal support system and help everyone — teachers, parents and students alike. Not only did James fill the food bank and buy the bicycles and uniforms, he made sure that psychological services were available to the teachers. He went one step further and even hired a personal trainer to assist the teachers in workouts should they feel so inclined. 

The new school is in partnership with the Lebron James Family Foundation and the Akron Public Schools system.

Despite using his massive platform to aid at-risk youth, James has faced backlash for opening this school due to its estimated costs of about $8 million by 2023.

The good news is that this is how all public schools work. Public schools exist in our infrastructure so that everyone theoretically is given an equal chance at an education. And yes, they are funded by the taxpayers. 

But from what we know of many inner-city public schools, public schools do not always have the funding nor the resources to adequately help at-risk youth. 

By keeping the "I Promise" School public as opposed to charter or completely private, James ensured that children who need this school the most are not at risk of losing their spots due to gentrification, nor unable to attend because of tuition costs.

Many of the same people who recoil at the thought of paying $2 more in taxes a year to help send at-risk youth to school lost their minds when some rich boy sent a car to space in a rocket like that wasn’t lighting dollar bills on fire.

James has an estimated net worth of $85.5 million. Elon Musk has an estimated net worth of $19.6 billion — and that’s still after his net worth dropped $1 billion in one day after an interview. Yet nobody seems to be making any noise about the work that Musk is doing (or lack thereof) to improve any disadvantaged communities. 

James, along with Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul, donated organic food and water to Flint, Michigan, when the crisis drew mainstream attention. 

Musk has enough wealth to fix the pipes, thus the water contamination, in Flint more than 18 times, yet he has only allegedly given around $2300 to Mari Copeny, otherwise known as “Little Miss Flint," a 10 year old leading activist in the Flint water crisis. He has pledged via Twitter to fix the crisis, but no official statements have been made. 

So let’s just keep it real honest about what the issue is here. Despite every dollar and second of charity that James has given, people still find a reason to hate him.

And no matter how subtle the message may seem, it’s still a clear send of the sentiment that people are very threatened by the concept that poor people are given a fighting chance. 

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