April 14, 2017
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LeBron James is opening a school for at-risk students in his hometown of Akron

Get inspired by these three stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

A large banner celebrating local basketball player LeBron James hangs in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by Flickr user Erik Drost

Hometown Hero: LeBron James delivered an NBA championship win to Ohio last year. Now, he’s set his sights on another win for Ohio: through the LeBron James Family Foundation, the basketball star has committed to opening a new school, the “I Promise School,” in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. The school, set to open in 2018, will start with a focus on third and fourth graders; the academic coverage will expand to grades one through eight by 2022. “This school is so important to me because our vision is to create a place for the kids in Akron who need it most—those that could fall through the cracks if we don’t do something,” James said. “If we get to them early enough, we can hopefully keep them on the right track to a bigger and brighter future for themselves and their families.” James has pushed similar initiatives in the past through his family foundation: these range from scholarships to educational programs aimed primarily at his hometown and local communities.

Farming in New York City: Edgemere Farm, an urban farm in Far Rockaway, Queens, in New York City, will be celebrating its fourth season with open house event May 7-8. The farm was founded in 2013, transforming an “underutilized” lot into a “lush and productive space,” according to its website. It became a positive alternative source of fresh produce for the region after 2012’s Hurricane Sandy. Heidi Woolever, one of the farmers at Edgemere, was inspired to move to New York and work on the farm after reading about child poverty in New York. The story of one homeless girl gripped her in particular: “I think she lived in one of the armories in Brooklyn and they described the yard as just dirt with nothing growing in it,” she told Edible Queens. “I thought, ‘I could go and grow food in that yard. I could provide food to people in my immediate neighborhood and be helpful.’ That’s what I came to New York to do.”

Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day 🎶 #chickenchores #riseandshine #calmbeforethestorm #edgemere

A post shared by Edgemere Farm (@edgemerefarm) on

Supporting local businesses: Supporting small-scale local businesses and manufacturers is important, but finding these businesses and engaging them is easier said than done. In a new blog post, Ilana Preuss, founder of Recast City, addresses this problem and lays out how to find small local manufacturers, and on a larger level, how to build a network of small-scale businesses in your community. The most important step is outreach: across fairs, festivals, markets, other businesses, community colleges, and faith or cultural organizations, and many others. “[Word of mouth] takes a lot of time, but will be your most effective way to find the small producers,” writes Preuss. “Identify five to ten businesses you already know. Ask each business to recommend two or more business owners to include in outreach activities. Ask each of those businesses to recommend others.” Ultimately, this helps develop a clearer sense of the diversity of resources available in a community.

Mikhail Klimentov

Mikhail Klimentov is a contributor to The Renewal Project