McConaughey visits local high schoolers

Actor's just keep livin Foundation partnered with Rangers

McConaughey visits local high schoolers

ARLINGTON -- High school can be, to put it mildly, rough. There's the mundanity of homework, the stress of figuring out the next step of life and when that's mixed with the pressures of performing well enough to keep grades up, results can slip.

That's what the just keep livin Foundation -- or j.k. livin Foundation -- aims to reverse. It's a twice-a-week after-school program that focuses on teaching students how to make positive life choices and improving students' mental and physical health by teaching them valuable lessons about nutrition, exercise, community service and academics, among other topics. It was created by actor Matthew McConaughey, who dropped by the Rangers Youth Ballpark on Wednesday to speak to 60 local high schoolers about what it means to "just keep livin."

McConaughey coined the name 15 years ago after struggling with the sudden passing of his father following a heart attack, and it stuck with him until the eventual creation of the foundation. It has locations in California, Washington D.C., Louisiana and Texas, and the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation have been partnered with them since 2011.

They teach kids about the importance of physical education, of opting for a balanced, home-cooked meal instead of grabbing fast food for the same price and how to be a better person, above all.

And so far, the results have been more than adequate.

"I have been very pleased. I've got a great team that does the groundwork every day," McConaughey said. "We partner with some great people, like the Rangers, for eight years. ...I don't have a staff that can be in Dallas, that can be in San Antonio, that can be in L.A., that can be in D.C. We need partners like the Rangers that oversee things, that go in and make sure that what we set out to do in our mission statement is being done.

"Attendance grades have gone up -- kids in our program, attendance grades have gone way, way up. Their actual grades have gone way up. Behavior grades have gone up, and more and more of them are finishing school if you come to our program."

And that's the key for the foundation: It needed to have quantifiable proof that the things they were implementing had hard results, where people could point to it and say with certainty that the kids in the program were being changed for the better.

"I wanted to have more than just an emotional pull, this needs to do more than feel good," McConaughey said. "I wanted to say, 'Hey, here's the science of what's working,' which allows us now to go to donors and say, 'Look, here's proof that your money or time is working.' And I'm happy to say that, so far, it is."

Sam Butler is a reporter for MLB.com based in Arlington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.