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LeBron James backs primetime TV special for graduating high school seniors

LeBron James is combining two of his off-court passions — education and entertainment — in a primetime event to honor the high school class of 2020 next month.

The Los Angeles Lakers star’s LeBron James Family Foundation is partnering with the XQ Institute and the Entertainment Institute Foundation to present “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020” airing across a slew of television and online platforms on Saturday, May 16.

The special, which will feature James, Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai, soccer star Megan Rapinoe, and musical acts Bad Bunny, the Jonas Brothers, Pharrell Williams and others will be simulcast across ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC as well as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok and other streaming services.

“It’s been a hard few months for all of us, but I especially really feel for the senior class of 2020,” James said Wednesday in a quote provided to ESPN. “The end of high school and graduation was one of the best memories of my life. It’s not fair. Every graduating senior needs to know how much we feel for them and hopefully this can help, even a little. This class is going to be special because they know in a real way how to persevere.”

The coronavirus pandemic has caused schools across the country to close and cancel graduation ceremonies in keeping with social distancing orders.

James’ SpringHill Productions will run the show, which will be filled with commencement addresses, celebrity cameos and video vignettes honoring the estimated 3 million high school seniors whose graduation experience is being impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

James was approached in the middle of April by XQ, led by board chair Laurene Powell Jobs and EIF — who were already partners on the project — to gauge his interest in getting involved.

The project’s mission to showcase education and diversity was a natural fit for James and he committed to not just appearing on the broadcast, but taking on a significant role in the event to have SpringHill Productions to team with Done + Dusted to put it on.

James posted a high school aged portrait of himself to his Twitter account Wednesday to promote the event.

Working on something special for you high school class of 2020! 🙏🏾 See you May 16th!! @LJFamFoundation @GradTogether @XQAmerica @EIFoundation #GraduateTogether 🎓 #MoreThanAnAthlete 👑

— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 29, 2020

James’ I Promise School opened in his hometown of Akron, Ohio in 2018, focusing on at-risk third and fourth graders and will expand to teach grades 1 through 8 by 2022.

“We learned early on in our work with students and families in Akron that education is so much more than academics,” James said in a statement. “It’s about shared experience, a journey we’re all on together – students, parents, educators, community members, and everyone around them. With that not being possible right now, we’ve been working to find ways to help families get through this really difficult time.

“These students have worked incredibly hard for this and there’s no way we can let that go unrecognized. While this won’t be the graduation experience they were supposed to get, we hope we can still give them something special because they deserve it.”

The commercial-free program has also received commitments from Yara Shahidi, H.E.R., Lena Waithe, Ben Platt, Henry Platt, Jonah Platt, Charli D’Amelio, Dixie D’Amelio, Chika, YBN Cordae and Loren Gray to appear on the presentation.

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