APS Students Join LeBron LJFF in Charlotte

All Star Promise
Posted on 02/19/2019
Image of All-Star Promise(Doug Livingston for ohio.com/Akron Beacon Journal)

LeBron James took a break from practicing Saturday for the NBA All-Star Game to acknowledge his family courtside, all 23 of them.

Callia Roberts, a senior at Firestone High School, will cherish that moment as a student ambassador in the LeBron James Family Foundation. But it’s not what inspired her to greatness on the bus ride home Sunday morning. “The moment that will forever impact me,” Roberts said of the All-Star Game weekend, was helping her friends wash the feet of 400 children in Charlotte, North Carolina, the day before, then putting a new pair of shoes on each and every one of them.

“Going on trips like these, we [330 Ambassadors] always reflect on how we’re going to bring [community service] back to Akron, which we hold near and dear to our hearts. What more can we do to impact the kids in our hometown?” she asked. “Seeing their reactions was similar to Akron kids on the opening day of [James’] I Promise School. I would really love to see more of that, more smiles on the faces of kids in our community.”

Sunday was James’ 15th straight All-Star Game. Ever using his platform for good, No. 23 has left his charitable mark on each city that hosts the game. But in these past five years, he’s assigned that rewarding work to his 330 Ambassadors.

In 2015, his ambassadors led 23 random acts of kindness in New York City, buying breakfast for McDonald’s customers for 23 minutes, renovating a gymnasium and donating everything from musical instruments to tickets for a Broadway show and a Drake concert. In 2016 in Toronto, they cleaned up a local recreation center for people with special needs and surprised local student athletes with new uniforms. The next year in New Orleans, they helped rebuild homes leveled by Hurricane Katrina. Last year in Los Angeles, they planted trees in areas devastated by forest fires.

New shoes for kids
This weekend, the 23 students from private and public high schools in Akron went to the mall after arriving in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday. Each was given the name, age and shoe size of a kindergarten through third-grade student at the Movement School, a public charter school that opened in 2017.

Friday morning, the ambassadors washed the 23 sets of little feet in the spirit of Jesus Christ. “Even if you don’t want to take it religiously,” Roberts said, “washing someone’s feet and giving them shoes is just [good community] service because you don’t know what’s going on in the private lives of these students. [The act of kindness] could change their entire outlook on everything.”

With help from the 2K Foundation, the ambassadors washed all 400 pairs of feet and passed out as many new shoes.

Then St. Vincent-St. Mary senior Russell Cooper hosted a Sprite/UNINTERRUPTED panel of current and former professional athletes in the spirit of a show called “More than an Athlete,” which James produces. “It was a once in a lifetime experience,” said Cooper, who reflected on James’ mission not to only serve but to realize the dreams of youths beyond the basketball court. “Being an athlete is great, but at some point that’s all going to stop. We talked about skills that will come in when the ball stops dribbling.”

Cooper has committed to playing defensive back at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania, where he’ll major in public relations and communications knowing that life as an athlete won’t last forever.

Career paths
Friday afternoon, the tour bus dropped the ambassadors off at the back office of the Carolina Panthers to learn about the professional careers supporting the NFL team. Aaron Brown, a senior at the National Inventors Hall of Fame STEM High School in downtown Akron, listened to equipment manager Rashaad Smith talk about folding 1,000 towels a day before getting a promotion in October.

“They all talked about having that ‘folding 1,000 towels a day moment,’ ” said Brown, who plans to study biomedical engineering at Ohio State University so he can one day design genetic and cellular solutions for patients lacking access to health care.

Like Roberts, he thought most about how to bring the experience back to Akron. He said he’ll seek out the counsel of leaders at the LeBron James Family Foundation and an engineer he admires back home. And he’ll look inward to help others.

“To be an ambassador means to be a leader in my community. ... A true leader, a true advocate, a true inspirer of young kids around me,” Brown said.

“How am I going to come back and inspire fellow youth in Akron?” he said over the phone as the tour bus made a final trip through the mountains of West Virginia on its way back to where LeBron James grew up.

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