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Principal Of LeBron James' I Promise School Talks About Mission


King James may be moving away from Ohio, but not before making a special kind of investment in his hometown. LeBron James and the City of Akron, Ohio, partnered up to build a public school called I Promise. It's meant to serve at-risk kids. The I Promise School opened this week. Brandi Davis is the school's principal, and she joins us now.

Ms. Davis, thanks for being here.

BRANDI DAVIS: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Describe the first day of school when students and parents showed up into this new space.

DAVIS: The first day of school was like a huge pep rally the entire day.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

DAVIS: We tried our best to have the most normal day for our students, but that was pretty difficult.

MARTIN: Right.

DAVIS: Tons of media outside, entrances blocked off - there was a huge stage in front of the school. And I mean, really, in actuality, how can you have a normal...

MARTIN: Right.

DAVIS: ...Day when the best basketball player in the world is at your building, walking around, touring with media? It was a great stage show.

MARTIN: That's pretty cool.

DAVIS: We had - yeah. It was just an amazing atmosphere - tears, excitement, joy for what's to come.

MARTIN: So just describe what makes this school different. I mean, clearly, beyond the fact that LeBron James is the benefactor, what are these kids going to get as a result of being students there?

DAVIS: Our school is - the I Promise School is unique because not only are we a STEM-designated school by the state of Ohio, but we have trauma-informed support because we are truly into educating the entire child, the whole child, focusing not just on their academics, but also on their social, emotional needs, as well. And then I feel the missing link in public education is family wraparound support. We have a family resource center housed on the premises of our school because we're not only into nurturing and loving our students, but we are wrapping around - our arms around the entire family.

MARTIN: I mean...

DAVIS: ...And ensuring that we're providing all of the supports that they need.

MARTIN: We should just tick off a few of these specific benefits. I mean, parents who need the support will get support to complete a GED. They will get help finding a job if they need it. Students are going to get free meals there. The tuition to the school is obviously free. And...

DAVIS: Yes, it is a public school - Akron public school.

MARTIN: And they will get free college tuition if they graduate from high school at the University of Akron. That's huge.

DAVIS: Absolutely. Absolutely. We are providing that solid foundation so that our students are not only strong academically, but they are contributing members of our society, as well.

MARTIN: Well, then let me ask you, big picture - this has happened before, that a well-meaning individual - celebrity, maybe, maybe not - or foundations with money have put cash into schools for at-risk kids. And results have been mixed. What has to happen to make sure that I Promise is a success over the long term?

DAVIS: The - it's a true long-standing partnership. Akron Public Schools and LeBron James Family Foundation already has a withstanding partnership since 2011. And just having everyone sitting at the table making decisions and all working together for the goodness - or the best way possible for these students to learn - that is what it's all about. At the end of the day, it's all about our students and what works best for them.

MARTIN: Brandi Davis is the principal of the I Promise School in Akron, Ohio. Ms. Davis, thanks so much for being here. Have a great school year.

DAVIS: Thanks. Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.