For Emma Chalk, 14, Just Keep Livin’ gatherings are a chance to improve herself and help her work through her living situation.
“I recently moved in with my aunt and uncle because of issues with my dad,” she said. “I had to leave because he was doing drugs, and I really didn’t want to stay in that situation with having no food, no water, really nothing. I was isolated in that house for three years.”
Just Keep Livin’ is a foundation and accompanying program founded by actor and Longview High School graduate Matthew McConaughey and his wife, Camila, to encourage healthy eating, exercise and social development for high school students.
District spokeswoman Elizabeth Ross said in July that the foundation approached Longview ISD to add the after-school program to Longview High, and all program costs are covered by the foundation.
Just Keep Livin’ is in addition to the Boys & Girls Club of the Big Pines programs already in place at some Longview ISD campuses.
Longview High School students meet Tuesdays and Thursdays for two hours after school. On Tuesdays, they meet at the Thrive360 facility on West Garfield Drive to work out, and Thursdays, the students do other activities, such as goal setting or community service.
Thrive360 is a nonprofit organization founded in 2015 with the goal of providing at-risk teens and their families with fitness, sports and after-school opportunities built on a Christian context.
At this past Thursday’s Just Keep Livin’ meeting, the students had a guest speaker, Alicia Johnson, who is a mentor at Partners in Prevention and a student and family intervention specialist at Foster Middle School.
During her talk, Johnson did various activities to teach about accountability.
At one point, students had to stand in a circle and reach out to hold hands with someone who was not next to them. Then, they had to untangle themselves back to a circle.
During the activity, a student left the circle, which made it almost impossible to complete the task, Johnson said.
“Sometimes when you quit, it makes it harder,” she said. “At some point we have to take ownership of our decisions.”
Adrianna Guerrero, 16, said she has dealt with a lot of instability in her life. She said she had had many divorces and deaths in her family and changes schools a lot.
“This is my only stationary place where I can stay and just be welcomed and loved,” she said. “This is my refuge.”
The workouts are helping students get out of the house and be more active, Adrianna said.
“I’ve lost weight, but also I’ve gotten happier,” she said. “I’ve gotten more comfortable with people.”
Sophia Trnavsky, 15, said she also has lost some weight, but she is happier she can be more comfortable and confident talking to people.
“I think I’ve found some better friends here than I have anywhere else,” she said. “These people are actually nice to me, and I didn’t have to do anything to try to earn their respect and stuff. They just respected me right off the bat.”
Rufus Humphries, 15, said the group is like a family and home to him. It also gives him something to do outside of the house. Alaysha Pierce, 14, said that was one of her main reasons for joining, too.
Adrianna said Just Keep Livin’ already has started to change her.
“For me, if it wasn’t for this, I would be in that back corner crying,” she said.