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LeBron James Family Foundation seeks student success solutions at Ole Miss

By Michael Newsom

University of Mississippi

There probably isn’t much more LeBron James can learn about basketball, but the sports megastar’s nonprofit foundation is looking for lessons from the University of Mississippi about ways to help students excel in college.

The LeBron James Family Foundation has established the “I PROMISE Institute” as a resource for its future students on the University of Akron campus. James, who attended Akron public schools and is passionate about education, set up the foundation in October 2016 to work with kids there who are least likely to earn a high school diploma, much less attend college, to help them do both.

James, through a partnership between his foundation and the university, has guaranteed four-year, full-ride scholarships for all its eligible students.

The original class of I Promise students is about to enter high school, and in four years will be college students, many of them the first in their families to do so. The I PROMISE Institute at Akron will be dedicated to researching best practices, implementing academic interventions and providing around-the-clock support for Akron college students.

“When we first started this program, I wanted my kids to graduate from high school,” James said. “But the more we grow as a foundation, the more we find can be done to give our kids the best chance to be successful.

“We don’t just want our kids to get to college; we want them to graduate from college. And we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to help them do that.”

Paul Herold, who recently retired from the University of Akron, is doing research on behalf of the foundation at universities to learn about ways to maximize the I Promise program’s impact. Herold recently visited Ole Miss to learn more about the student success programs in place.

After a day-and-a-half of meeting with students, faculty and administrators, he was impressed with the university’s programs as well as its students.

“They’re lucky to go to school here,” Herold said. “This university has its act together and is very student-centered. The student affairs structure is exceptional, as is the way everyone across campus buys into it.

“Any university in the country would be pleased to serve students as well as Ole Miss does.”

Herold met with a group of Ole Miss students in the Lyceum. They discussed experiences on campus with several programs, some of which could shape programs I Promise creates over the next few years.

Ieshia Mosley, a junior accounting major from Horn Lake, pointed to her experience with UM’s Students First, which is for first-generation students. The organization helps students create friendships, improve interpersonal skills, hone study habits and learn other keys to a successful college experience.

She said the community atmosphere within the group, as well as her mentor there, helped her succeed.

“Because I was the first person in my family to go to college, I wasn’t able to go to my family with some of the questions that I had,” Mosley said. “But in the organization, I was able to relate to other students who were going through things similar to what I was going through. I was able to get a mentor to go to when I didn’t understand something. I still have those relationships.”