LeBron James to Host Star-Studded Virtual Graduation for Class of 2020

The one-hour special will air across broadcast networks and social media platforms, featuring Jonas Brothers, Yara Shahidi, Ben Platt and Pharrell Williams, among others.

With the Class of 2020 unable to throw their caps in the air this year due to the coronavirus, LeBron James is putting on a special graduation celebration.

The NBA superstar is partnering with Laurene Powell Jobs' XQ Institute and the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) to host a virtual graduation ceremony for the more than 3 million high school seniors in the U.S. Together, they've enlisted a collection of actors, musicians, athletes and activists to participate in the festivities, including Jonas Brothers, Yara Shahidi, Ben Platt, Lena Waithe, Megan Rapinoe, Pharrell Williams, Bad Bunny, Malala Yousafzai, Chika, YBN Cordae, Loren Gray, H.E.R., Brandan Bmike Odums and TikTok-ers Charli and Dixie D'Amelio.

On Friday, more names were announced, including: Zendaya, Olivia Wilde, Liza Koshy, National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson, Lana Condor, Maren Morris, Karol G, Kane Brown, David Dobrik and the Dolan Twins.

In a rather unprecedented move, the one-hour special, which is called Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020, will air simultaneously across all broadcast platforms — ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC — and on a host of leading entertainment, social media and streaming platforms — including YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, PeopleTV and Complex Networks — on Saturday, May 16, at 8 p.m. ET. The show is being produced by Done + Dusted and James' SpringHill Entertainment.

“We learned early on in our work with students and families in Akron that education is so much more than academics. It’s about a shared experience, a journey we’re all on together — students, parents, educators, community members, and everyone around them," James said Wednesday in a statement. "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 broadcast will consist of a mix of commencement addresses, celebrity performances and inspirational vignettes. The idea is for Graduate Together to be curated by high school students and educators throughout the country, with the support of the American Federation of Teachers. Using the hashtag #GraduateTogether, students, educators and families are invited to submit their own videos and photos online for consideration to be included in the telecast.

It was later announced that Barack Obama would deliver a commencement message during the event, with the former president joined by several high-school students that are part of the Obama Foundation's work, including seniors from Chicago public schools and members of the Obama Youth Jobs Corps.

“This high school graduation season will be anything but ordinary — but that’s all the more reason why the Class of 2020 deserves extraordinary advice, heartfelt encouragement and hard-won wisdom about facing new challenges in an uncertain world,” XQ Institute CEO and co-founder Russlynn Ali said in a statement accompanying the Obama news. “We are grateful to President Obama for giving this gift to our nation’s three million high school seniors as they #GraduateTogether.”

The event is also intended to benefit kids, teens and their families in underserved communities throughout the country who have been most affected by the school closures due to the pandemic. To that end, #GraduateTogether is partnering with DonorsChoose and America’s Food Fund in an effort led by EIF, XQ Institute and The LeBron James Family Foundation and its I PROMISE School. DonorsChoose gives public school teachers working in high-need communities the opportunity to request the materials and resources their students need to keep learning. America’s Food Fund provides funding to hunger-relief organizations, ensuring students who rely on school lunch programs still have safe and consistent access to meals during the pandemic.

Among the other organizations helping to support the special event is CAA, which has been invested in education initiatives for more than 25 years and is working to rally the creative community around the effort.

James, Shahidi, Waithe and Jonas Brothers all teased the graduation special on their social media platforms Wednesday by posting their senior photos. James also announced the Obama addition on his Instagram account.

May 5, 8:24 a.m. Updated with the news that Barack Obama has been added to the program.

May 8, 7 a.m. Updated with more names participating in the program.