By creating the I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, NBA superstar LeBron James hoped to put kids from his community in the best possible situation for their futures.

With help from Kent State, he has provided them more opportunity, surprising his first-ever class with four years of free tuition to the university with their first year of room and board included.

On Wednesday, the group of 193 high school juniors believed to be attending an 11th-grade experience outing at Kent State. Instead, they were instructed to open an envelope under all their seats informing them of another option to continue their education.

The class will be eligible for this program for the 2021-22 academic year, given they meet academic requirements for admission, fill out financial aid forms and participate in community service hours each semester.

Students in the I Promise system already had the opportunity to earn scholarships to the University of Akron. Expanding this program to Kent State provides more options to the at-risk youth in James’ program.

“Kent State loves what we’re doing. We’ve always had a great relationship with Kent State and Akron (University),” James said about the program’s expansion.

“To be able to give free tuition to my inaugural kids at my (school), it’s crazy. Free tuition for four years. They get to decide if they want to get free tuition (at Kent State) or go to Akron U. We have so many options. I just know that so many kids in my community just don’t have many options. So for me to be in a position where I could give these kids an option to decide what they want to do with their future, it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done.”

To assist in costs of admission not included in their tuition or first year of room and board, Kent State set up a fundraising initiative.

Thumbnail photo via Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images