The global health crisis has robbed many high-schoolers of milestone experiences. Schools across the country have been forced to close as part of stay-at-home orders, leading many teens to miss out on events like prom, sports championships, and graduation.
LeBron James is hoping to alleviate some of that disappointment with a televised special for graduating seniors. The one-hour event, called "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020," is a collaborative effort between the LeBron James Family Foundation, the XQ Institute, and the Entertainment Institute Foundation. Complex founder Marc Eckō, Jimmy Iovine, Yo-Yo Ma, Michael Klein, and Geoffrey Canada serve as board of directors for XQ, an organization that provides support for high school students. The event will air on Complex Networks (at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT), as well as on other digital platforms (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok) and on TV commercial-free (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox) at 8 p.m. ET on May 16.
"At XQ, we work to reimagine the American high school experience—but no one could have imagined the profound changes that have upended the Class of 2020's final days of the school year," Russlynn Ali, co-founder and CEO of XQ Institute, explained. "It has been remarkable to watch these young people, in the face of an unprecedented challenge, demonstrate courage and resilience beyond their years. In doing so, they have given every American reason to feel hopeful about our future. #GraduateTogether is an opportunity for us all to pay tribute to what these incredible students have accomplished."
"It's been a hard few months for all of us, but I especially really feel for the senior class of 2020," James said in a statement 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 special will also benefit families who have been most affected by COVID-19 school closures. James' I PROMISE School and the organizations behind Graduate Together have teamed up with America's Food Fund and DonorsChoose to ensure students have consistent lunch meals as well as the resources and materials needed for distance learning.
The special will feature appearances by Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai, soccer star Megan Rapinoe, Pharrell, Bad Bunny, Yara Shahidi, H.E.R., and many more. Former President Barack Obama will also speak during the event.
"I’ve always loved joining commencements––the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice," Obama wrote on IG. "Even if we can’t get together in person this year, Michelle and I are excited to celebrate the nationwide Class of 2020 and recognize this milestone with you and your loved ones."