AKRON, OH (WOIO) - LeBron James surprised his I PROMISE School (IPS) students by announcing a $1 million Sports Matter grant from the DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation to build a brand new gym.
The new facility will offer students a safe space for PE and after school sports, which is why DICK’S and its Foundation created Sports Matter in 2014. They have pledged more than $50 million to fund thousands of youth sports programs and impacted millions of young athletes.
IPS students gathered at St. Vincent – St. Mary High School for the surprise announcement delivered by none other than King James himself.
“To my kids, this is more than a gym," James said, "I can’t imagine where my friends and I would be if it weren’t for the coaches and teachers who cared about us and the opportunities we had.”
IPS is a public school founded in partnership with Akron Public Schools and the LeBron James Family Foundation. It serves 240 of Akron Public School’s most at-risk third and fourth grade students.
All students at IPS started the school year in the bottom 25th percentile and were performing below grade level, that according to information released by the school.
In less than a year, they’ve shown incredible improvement, with 90 percent meeting or exceeding individual growth goals in reading and math, outpacing peers across the district.
“I believe the sky is the limit for these kids and the results we’re seeing are just the beginning," James said of the school’s success.
He continued, “I saw it growing up with my teammates and I see it with my kids now.”
Data shows kids who are physically active and play sports have higher test scores, get better grades, are absent less and are more likely to go to college.
Kids living in low income areas have significantly less opportunities to play sports often because of cost and lack of facilities.
"The benefits of playing sports can extend to every aspect of your life, and I’m excited we’re able to provide a space for that growth at the I PROMISE School,” James said.