[AKRON, Ohio] – Students in Akron have a lot to look forward thanks in part to city’s own NBA legend LeBron James, who recently announced plans to help students pay for their college education.
On Wednesday October 21, 2015 at the University of Akron’s James A. Rhodes (JAR) Arena, LeBron James and First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama addressed this announcement to over one thousand students at a special event focused on education.
In 2011, in partnership with Akron Public Schools, the LeBron James Family Foundation began working on the high school dropout crisis, through the foundation’s “Wheels for Education” (WFE) program, that targets third graders and following them through graduation.
Now the foundation will guarantee a 4-year, renewable University of Akron scholarship to all qualifying students that are part of the Akron I PROMISE Network (AIPN).
In order to qualify, each student must graduate from a high school within the Akron Public School district, achieve standard testing, maintain good attendance and perform community service.
As a child growing up in Akron, James knows the challenges for many students whose parents face low income challenges and can’t afford to send their kids to college. “This will give parents a sense of relief and I can now look forward to my kids having the opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do,” said James, The Reporter’s 2015 “Man of the Year.”
James generated cheers from students as he told said, “this is an unbelievable day and I always think about the hard work you do. I promise to work hard from the time I get up for work as I go to practice or to appearances, I hold up to my responsibilities and I know you will do the same.”
First Lady Michelle Obama followed suit as she came out to a roaring crowd saying, “Wow! I want to take time to talk about Mr. LeBron as you all call him – I’m telling Mr. LeBron that he has two huge fans in the White House; that’s me and Mr. Obama.”
Obama continued: “We love this man because of the man that he is, not because he’s a great athlete. We love him because of the husband, father, the son, friend and citizen that he is. He’s a role model and we’re so proud of him for stepping up for his state and city. I love LeBron.”
First Lady Michelle Obama was on hand to promote her “Better Make Room” campaign, a program that targets 14-19 year-old and is associated with her “Reach Higher” initiative. According to the White House, the “Reach Higher” initiative was designed, “to inspire every student in America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university.”
Obama said that she hoped everyone would soon be hearing about the students’ accomplishments as they finished high school and went on to college.
“We want to make room for you and your stories and so instead of everybody always talking about folks like me and LeBron and the next reality TV show, we want them to talk about kids like you,” said Obama. “You are the stars, so we want to shine a big bright light on how hard you are working and how much you’re achieving.
ESPN sports anchor Michael Wilbon joined Obama and James in leading the students in the “I Promise” pledge. Students stood up and repeated the words: “I promise to dream big…to go to school, do my home work, listen to teachers; ask questions and find answers.”
Many students received hugs and handshakes from Obama, James, and members of the James family.
“I can’t wait to tell my friends that I saw LeBron and Mrs. Obama,” young Anthony Patterson, Jr. told The Reporter.
His dad Anthony Patterson, Sr. said, “What LeBron is doing says a lot about his character. The fact that he’s willing to pay for all of these kids education means a lot to me, because not too many athletes will do this.”
“I learned that I need to finish school if I want to get a scholarship,” said young Gavin Messner, who said that he wants to be a policeman someday.
Marlon Cheatham said that he learned to always do his best and he shared that he wants to be an architect some day.
Young Haneef Abdulmujib also learned to always try his best and to never give up when it gets hard. Abdulmujib said that he dreams of being a doctor when he grows up.
The first class of the “Wheels for Education” will graduate in the year 2021. For information about the LeBron James Family Foundation, log on to www.lebronjamesfamilyfoundation.org.