KENT, Ohio — For the second year, Kent State University is hosting a special summer camp designed to help students in the LeBron James "I PROMISE" program realize their collegiate dreams.
The university is partnering with the LeBron James Family Foundation for the FLASH P'ACT program which takes place on campus over four weeks.
The students have six hours of academics daily which includes math and reading prep work for the ACT test.
The kids live on campus for a month and are also exposed to nightly university-sanctioned recreation and wellness events, daily meals in dining facilities and volunteering opportunities.
On Thursday morning, several KSU students spent time providing ACT reading tips to 24 teens who have been part of LeBron's program since they were in third grade.
"Today, we're learning about about speed, to be efficient," 15-year-old Chevalie' Robinson, a junior at Akron Early College said. "They've given many opportunities that I wouldn't have had otherwise like two years of the FLASH P'ACT program. A lot of kids don't get the ACT prep work that we're getting."
With support from LJFF, many of students said they're also working on improving their confidence as they grow older.
"More so mentally, like you got to be prepared and you got to be confident," Dylan West, a Buchtel High School student said. "I need to work on my confidence a little bit, but I'm pretty sure I can do it though."
The kids have a lot riding on their own success. A partnership between LeBron's foundation and the University of Akron gives them the opportunity to earn 4-year scholarships to UA.
"We know that we offer that opportunity to them, but we don't want to just leave it at that— like here's the opportunity waiting for you, go get it— we want to build supports along the way as well to support them on that journey," Toni Montgomery from the foundation.
In order to be eligible for the free tuition, the kids must complete 120 hours of community service, have a 3.0 GPA and score at least a 20 on the ACT.
Justin Hilton, who does community outreach for KSU, said helping the students is a big deal because many of them will become the first member of their families to attend college.
"Essentially, what we're doing— and no one can predict the future— but we understand that we're planting seeds that can germinate to the point where we are literally changing complete genealogies," Hilton said. "The reality is we believe in the concept of a rising tide raises all ships, so if one of those ships is the University of Akron and one of those ships is Kent State University, it doesn't matter. Higher education works for everyone."
The first students from the I PROMISE program will attend college in 2021.
This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.