Today’s blog post is from Communities In Schools of Los Angeles’ Development and Marketing Manager Jennifer Elizabeth Graham.
Run the mile in 7:30. Drink only one soda per week. Raise geometry grade from F to C.Do community service. Spend more time doing soccer drills. Call my dad once a week.
These personal goals are as diverse and unique as the students who set them. What they all have in common is that each and every one was achieved last year by a Communities In Schools student through the j.k. livin Foundation’s after school program. Whether physical, nutritional, mental, or emotional, each year the students in the program set goals which help empower them to stay in school, make healthier choices, and achieve in life.
Hollywood leading man Matthew McConaughey started the j.k. livin Foundation in 2008 with the hope of encouraging students to make positive and healthy changes in themselves and in the world around them. Wanting to work with at-risk high school students, McConaughey was introduced to Communities In Schools of Los Angeles. Now, our affiliate and the j.k. livin Foundation work together at Venice and Hamilton high schools, providing an important service which wouldn’t otherwise be available to the students attending.
The j.k. livin Foundation runs an after school fitness and wellness program twice a week for two hours at both schools, serving roughly 300 students. Communities In Schools of Los Angeles site coordinators work with the j.k. livin staff to identify those students who would most benefit from the program. Sometimes it’s a physical health issue, where a student needs access to structured exercise and nutritional education. Sometimes it’s a lack of self-confidence, or a negative attitude. And sometimes a student just needs a safe place to be after school. Whatever the issue, Communities In Schools of Los Angeles students enrolled in j.k livin gain confidence, improve their attitudes and learn self-reliance, all while improving their fitness and health. And the workouts are not easy. For example, check out the jump roping component of one workout below:
The students also do sit-ups, push-ups, squats, and medicine ball work. They run hurdles and relays, sprints and long distance. And they practice holding the plank position every day. A good thing, since Matthew McConaughey led them through a plank exercise at the GIVE Education campaign kick-off last week!
Thanks to these workouts, the students see great results. Some have lost weight to reach a healthier size. Some have achieved their goal of finally joining a school sports team. And many have started making more informed choices about what to eat and drink. But these students have also demonstrated improvement outside of the program; our site coordinators have seen improved grades, attendance, and behavior among the students they have referred to j.k. livin’s after school program.
At the end of each j.k. livin session, the students sit in a circle and share something they’re grateful for. The “gratitude circle” encourages students to focus on all of the positive things they have in their lives, and often what they share with the group is quite personal. Students say they are grateful for their families. They are grateful for their health. And they are grateful for the opportunity to become healthier, happier young adults because of Communities In Schools and the j.k. livin Foundation.