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LeBron James opens I Promise School in Ohio, offers free uniforms, lunch, bikes and more

LeBron James may be a Los Angeles Laker, but Akron, Ohio, will always be home.

On Monday, before heading to California, James unveiled his I Promise School, which will benefit at-risk students. It is public and part of Akron Public Schools, which paid $2.9 million from its general fund for the cost of most benefits, salaries, supplies and essential elements for the school, according to Akron Beacon Journal.

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“It’s kind of a bittersweet moment right now, sitting here in my school that I’m opening around these kids, around this community and then at the same time, making a switch to the other coast, being a part of the Lakers now,” James told ESPN Monday. “It’s always a tough decision when you leave home or you leave an organization that you’ve been with for multiple years.”

The Akron Beacon Journal reported that the I Promise School opened to 240 academically at-risk third- and fourth-graders. Anything not covered by Akron Public Schools has been paid for by the LeBron James Family Foundation and community partners. 

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AKRON, OH - JULY 30: LeBron James addresses the crowd the opening ceremonies of the I Promise School on July 30, 2018 in Akron, Ohio. The School is a partnership between the LeBron James Family foundation and the Akron Public School and is designed to serve Akron's most challenged students. (Photo by (Jason Miller/Getty Images)) (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

“This school is so important to me because our vision is to create a place for the kids in Akron who need it most – those that could fall through the cracks if we don’t do something,” James said in a statement prior to the opening of the school. “We’ve learned over the years what works and what motivates them, and now we can bring all of that together in one place along with the right resources and experts. If we get to them early enough, we can hopefully keep them on the right track to a bigger and brighter future for themselves and their families.”

Related: Photos: LeBron James through the years

More than $2 million went toward upgrading the school’s temporary home, a building owned by the district. Furniture, landscaping, classroom makeovers and staffing for smaller class sizes and technology were made possible with the funds. By 2022, Cassius reported, the school will have about 1,000 students in first through eighth grades.

The lobby of the I Promise School, a new Akron Public School funded by the LeBron James Family Foundation has a display of LeBron shoes in the lobby and is shown in Akron, Ohio, Monday, July 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Phil Long) (Phil Long/AP)

“We’ve brought this amazing family of partners together to eliminate many of the barriers our students and families face, and we believe it’s truly going to change lives,” Michele Campbell, director of the LeBron James Family Foundation, told Akron Beacon Journal. “It’s all because of LeBron’s commitment to Akron and his ability to rally people around these kids and support them so they can have a better future.

“That’s how generational change is created, and LeBron, his foundation and our partners are in this for the long haul.”

ESPN reported that the school has longer hours than most -- 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. -- and a longer school year, but James has a number of things in place to make things easier for students and their families -- some of which was a challenge for him as a student.

CNN reported that every student gets breakfast, lunch and snacks, a free bike and helmet, free uniforms, and free transportation for students who are more than 2 miles away. The school also has a food pantry for families.

Students who follow the program laid out by the foundation will have free college tuition at the University of Akron. The foundation also has a program that will allow parents will be able to earn their high school diplomas and other continuing education, according to ESPN.

“We want every kid who walks through this school to be inspired,” James told CNN. “To come away with something. Something where they can give back and it doesn’t matter -- it could be anything, but just for kids, in general, all they want to know is that someone cares. And when they walk through that door, I hope they know that someone cares.”

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