Students in LeBron James’ school program were surprised with 4 years of free college tuition at Kent State University

  • The LeBron James Family Foundation and Kent State University announced on Wednesday that the inaugural class of LeBron James’ I Promise Network will receive free tuition to Kent State.
  • The 193 students were surprised with the gift – which includes free tuition for four years and one year of free room and board – during a visit to Kent State.
  • In order to receive the tuition, students have to be accepted into Kent State, fill out financial aid forms, and complete community service hours each semester.
  • They will have to work to hold on to the scholarship by remaining in good academic standing, continuing community service, and taking an undisclosed amount of credits every semester.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Students from the inaugural class of LeBron James’ I Promise Network in Akron, Ohio, won’t have to worry about college costs – they’ve been granted four years of free tuition at the nearby Kent State University.

The LeBron James Family Foundation made the announcement in partnership with Kent State on Wednesday, saying that all 193 students from the I Promise’s first graduating class are receiving the surprise gift.

The students are currently juniors in high school, and they were told of the free tuition on a visit to Kent State.

“You are Mr. LeBron James’ first class, his first love, it all started because of you,” Melody Tankersley, the university’s interim senior vice president and provost, told students in a video posted to Twitter.

Tankersley said the students first became part of James’ I Promise program when they were in third grade, according to a press release. In the years since, Tankersley said, the students have applied themselves to make their dream of college a reality.

The students learned about the tuition through surprise envelopes underneath their chairs, which said: “Kent State guarantees your tuition-free for four years! You will also receive free room and meal plan for your first year.”

Kent State President Todd Diacon spoke to students about the free tuition as they cheered in a crowded auditorium.

“We are doing this because we know of the transformative power of a higher education and a college degree, but most of all we’re doing this because you guys have demonstrated over the past several years that you have the grit, that you have the determination, that you have the dreams to succeed,” Diacon said.

The students will be eligible for free tuition beginning as college freshmen in the 2021-22 academic year.

In order to receive the Kent State package, they must be successfully accepted into the university, fill out financial aid forms, and complete community service hours each semester. To stay eligible over the four years, students will have to remain in good academic standing, continue community service, and take an undisclosed required number of credits each semester.

Michele Campbell, executive director of the LeBron James Family Foundation, said in a press release that Kent State is providing an opportunity that will help the students “be successful not only in school but in life.”

James, an Akron native, opened the I Promise School in 2018 with a goal of helping kids who were at risk of falling behind. His LeBron James Family Foundation was a top donor to the public school, which first opened its doors to elementary-age students with plans to expand to let in children in third grade through eighth grade.

James’ I Promise Network helps to mentor students across Akron with college and career prep.

In 2015, he partnered with The University of Akron to guarantee scholarships for all eligible students who finished the program.

“I know the streets they walk; I know the trials and tribulations that they go through,” he said at the time, describing his childhood in Akron. “I know the ups, the downs; I know everything that they dream about. I know all the nightmares that they have, because I’ve been there.”