How the partnership between The LeBron James Family Foundation and Kent State came to be

Jamil Wright, a rising 10th grader at Akron’s NIHF STEM High School, works with other I Promise students on their team brand identity on June 18 at Kent State University.

Simon Hannig

The LeBron James Family Foundation and Kent State announced this week they have agreed to a partnership.

According to WKYC, the I PROMISE high school students will live on the Kent campus from Monday through Friday for three weeks, and will be “exposed to the university experience through attending college courses, nightly university-sanctioned recreation and wellness opportunities, daily meals in the university’s dining facilities, on-campus volunteering, and hands-on, community-engaged learning.”

After the three-week summer program, there will be a mentoring program.

Melody Tankersley, the senior associate provost and graduate studies dean, talked about how they found out about the foundation and describes her own experience with the LJFF.

“The Lebron James Family Foundation (LJFF) has been doing amazing things in the city of Akron and with Akron Public Schools for quite a while now,” Tankersley said. “I actually got a firsthand look at the good works that LJFF does through my son, Jackson. For the past three years, Jackson has served as one of the 23 high school students who make up the ‘330 Ambassadors.’ The Ambassadors serve as role models and mentors to the I Promise students.”

Tankersley described who initiated the first contact between LJFF and Kent State.

“Benjamin Tipton from Institutional Advancement had a meeting with Dr. Michelle Campbell, the executive director of the LJFF, at the same time that several of us from Kent State (Justin Hilton, Mark Mistur, Eboni Pringle, Amy Reynolds, John Crawford-Spinelli and Bob Sines) were working with Akron Public Schools on their College and Career Academy approach to their high schools,” Tankersley said. “Because LJFF works with Akron Public Schools, and perhaps because I had a relationship with LJFF through my son, we all saw an opportunity at the same time. It really is a partnership that grew organically from the commitment to our prospective missions to support members of our community, by advancing their educational opportunities, and to be change agents in order to better our society.”

WKYC also reported Kent State will provide specialized programming to the I Promise students, and this is what Kent State will provide to the students.

“We are currently in Week 2 of a three-week residential program for the I Promise ninth graders,” Tankersley said. “These ninth graders are Lebron’s first I Promise students. Through the residential program, called Flash P’ACT, students are preparing to take the ACT. …

“We also are intentionally exposing them to lots of different career paths through engaging activities, showing them the importance of community service and enjoying the fun side of college.”

Michele Campbell, the executive director of the LJFF, described the criteria for picking a school to do a partnership deal.

“We know that if we want to create the real change LeBron envisions, it has to be a complete community effort,” Campbell said. “With that said, we are open to any school or organization that shares our belief in our students and is willing to open their doors and extend their resources to them. Our mission is to change an entire community from the inside out, and if their vision aligns with that, we are all ears.”

Campbell also described how Kent State approached the LJFF.

“Knowing our mission and what we are working towards with the I PROMISE program, Kent State came to the table and asked, ‘What can we do to help?’” Campbell said. “After a conversation about the need to get our students college- and career-ready, the KSU team took immediate action to pull together this summer programming so we didn’t waste any valuable time. This support is so important for our students as they move closer and closer to college, so we truly appreciate Kent State’s willingness to join our family and help us get them where they need to be academically.”

Even though there is no set of number of years, the LJFF hopes this partnership lasts for years to come with Kent State.

“There is no set number, but we hope this important partnership continues for many years to come,” she said. “With the opening of our I Promise School in July, we will be expanding the work we do with our I Promise students while keeping the ultimate goal — to positively impact the lives of students and families in Akron and create generational change — the same. To achieve that, we will need an entire community of partners like Kent State to help us along the way.”

Simon Hannig is a copy editor. Contact him at [email protected].