Matthew McConaughey is Quietly Helping Thousands of At-Risk Teens Excel in High School
Matthew McConaughey has dominated the headlines amid the coronavirus pandemic. From hosting virtual bingo games to delivering thousands of face masks to rural hospitals, the Texas-based Oscar-winner is becoming just as well known for his philanthropy as he is for his acting.
But don’t let the recent media coverage fool you: McConaughey and his wife Camila were in the business of do-gooding long before COVID-19 struck.
Matthew and Camila first introduced Just Keep Livin’ (JKL) in 2008 in two Los Angeles high schools. Twelve years later, they said they never imagined how essential their program would become for at-risk kids from families that fall below the poverty line.
Today, the program employs 84 teachers in 37 high schools, and serves almost 3,000 students in six states plus Washington, DC. Any student can participate in the four-hour-per-week curriculum, which includes aerobic exercise and yoga, nutrition tips, weekend service projects, and a “gratitude circle.”
Matthew is a firm believer in the importance of physical activity and its benefits for the mind, body, and soul.
“What makes the program unique is how all students are welcomed. You are not your GPA, you are not your trauma, you are not your insecurities or your home life,” program alumna Maria Gutierrez Salmeron told Town & Country. “Just Keep Livin’ gives you the chance to just be you.”
Though the average graduation rate in JKL’s high schools is about 50%, every senior in the program last year graduated. One was just accepted to Harvard.
“We end up getting really exceptional kids—some who were already doing okay but then really excelled, others who were on the wrong path and do complete turnarounds,” Matthew explained. “They’ll become valedictorian, get a scholarship, graduate, and land a great job.”
Naturally, the 50-year-old is incredibly humble about the whole thing. “Being able to give back in ways is a selfish endeavor,” he told Town & Country. “It feels good to me to see a smile or hear a young person say thank you. That’s called a selfless act? I call it a selfish act.”
You can’t fool us, Matthew! We don’t think there’s anything selfish about it.