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LeBron James making college possible for city kids

Associated Press | 8/20/2015, 9:40 p.m. | Updated on 8/20/2015, 10:34 p.m.
LeBron James is giving kids from Akron — ones with challenging backgrounds like his — the chance to go to ...

SANDUSKY, Ohio

LeBron James is giving kids from Akron — ones with challenging backgrounds like his — the chance to go to college for free.

The NBA star with the Cleveland Cavaliers has partnered with the University of Akron on a program that will provide a guaranteed four-year scholarship to the school for qualifying students in James’ “I Promise” program. The scholarship will cover tuition and the university’s general service fee — currently $9,500 per year.

It’s the latest example of James, who often refers to himself “as just a kid from Akron,” giving back to a community that helped raise him.

“It’s the reason I do what I do,” said James, who announced the program Aug. 13 while hosting an event for students at Cedar Point Amusement Park. “These students have big dreams, and I’m happy to do everything I can to help them get there. They’re going to have to earn it, but I’m excited to see what these kids can accomplish knowing that college is in their futures.”

The school and the LeBron James Family Foundation still are finalizing the criteria for the scholarships. The students will have to graduate from a high school within Akron’s public school system and achieve standardized testing requirements, as well as fulfill a community service obligation.

James has had a long-standing relationship with the university. As his celebrity soared in high school, James played many games on the university’s campus. The four-time MVP deepened his connection with the University of Akron soon after he turned professional.

In recent months, James and members of his foundation met with Akron President Scott Scarborough hoping to establish a program that would have a long-term impact on the community. The result was an initiative they believe will inspire the area’s youths to achieve and reach their potential.

Michele Campbell, executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation, said James, who grew up in a single-parent home, became visibly emotional when discussing the impact the program will have on the kids and their families.

“He has a chance to change their futures,” Campbell said. “Not everybody can be an NBA superstar, so to be able to provide the framework to make your dreams come true is overpowering.”

The university immediately renamed its education department the LeBron James Family Foundation College of Education.