AKRON, Ohio — LeBron James made a surprise appearance at his alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, in Akron Thursday afternoon.
But the surprise was for students of his I Promise School. IPS is a public school founded in partnership with Akron Public Schools and the LeBron James Family Foundation.
He brought with him a check for $1 million to build a new gym at the school for 240 3rd and 4th graders. It was funded by a grant from the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation.
“It’s an unbelievable day for all of us at the IPS school,” James said. “Everyone here that has anything to do with the Dick’s Foundation we just want to say ‘thank you.’ We didn’t set out to have donations like this. We didn’t set out for recognition. We just set out to do something great for our kids.”
James said his success started in the gym and it was an important place for his to have fun with his friends and classmates.
“I don’t want you guys to think that the gym that we’re putting up is just correlated behind sports. It’s also another safe place for our kids. Another place where our faculty members and our teachers and everyone associated the place can still have hands on with our kids,” he said.
“The word sport is definitely a huge thing because it’s basically where I come from,” James told the I Promise students. “I understand we preache education everyday day and we’re going to continue to preach education every day because it means so much not only where you are today, but going on for the rest of your life.”
“The word sport and sports in general can help you get to so many different places in life just because of the comradery and brotherhood and sisterhood that you encounter throughout playing sports,” he said.
According to the LeBron James Family Foundation, all students at IPS started the school year in the bottom 25th percentile and were performing below grade level. In less than a year, 90 percent are meeting or exceeding individual goals in reading and math and are outpacing peers cross the district.
The Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation said students who are physically active and play sports have higher tests scores, get better grades, are absent less and are more likely to go to college.