Fairfax High School student Joy Flournoy (right), along with students from Fremont, Amino Inglewood, Hamilton, and Venice, had a great time cleaning up at the beach while learning about marine life./OW Photo by Jason Lewis (67165)

Local high school students are meeting their fitness goals with the help of the Just Keep Livin’ Foundation—founded by Oscar Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey—which is dedicated to empowering students to lead active lives and make healthy choices.

A major component of the foundation is community service, and it holds several projects each year. Students from Fremont, Animo Inglewood, Fairfax, Venice, and Hamilton high schools recently participated in a beach clean-up event that was hosted by Heal the Bay.

“We’re primarily a fitness program, but we also address the whole student, and part of that is gratitude and service,” said Tobin Paap, operations director. “When Matthew started this program it was important to him that these kids who are getting the benefits from this program also turn around and give to others.”

JK Livin’ provides those opportunities by creating enjoyable events such as the beach clean-up, holiday toy drives, and charity races.

“They especially love coming down to the beach,” Paap said.

The beach clean-up event was not only for community service, but it was also to educate the students on environmental issues, such as the scarcity of fresh water, and the importance of keeping the beaches clean.

“When you look out (at the beach) it looks pretty clean, but when you start walking through the sand, you see all the trash, and styrofoam cups, and cigarette butts, and bottle caps, and all the stuff that people are carelessly leaving about. It does have a big impact on the environment,” Paap said.

The students also visited the Santa Monica Aquarium, which is at the Santa Monica Pier. They had some fun while being about to touch the marine animals and learning about life in the ocean.

“I learned that plastic bottles contain chemicals that can cause birth defects in children,” said Joy Flournoy, a freshman at Fairfax High School.

Flournoy said that while cleaning up at the beach she came across a lot of plastic bottles, and that many of those items get washed out into the ocean. She also learned that the water that comes out of the tap is exactly the same as the bottle water purchased at the store, which means that there really is not a need to purchase water that is in an environmentally harmful container.

Performing this type of community service was important to Flournoy.

“It made me feel great,” she said. “I felt like I was giving back and helping the earth.”

All of the students who were involved in the beach clean-up event had extremely positive attitudes, and they really enjoyed the work that they were doing. That is the type of environment that JK Livin’ creates while they are promoting a healthy lifestyle through physical activity. The foundation recently took students from Fremont High School to workout with USC’s triathlon team, and they also took students in the program to Muscle Beach in Santa Monica for a workout on the sand.

Not only does JK Livin’ promote exercise, the foundation also teaches students about proper nutrition by informing them which foods are healthy to eat, how to track their food, how to prepare their food in a healthy manner, and they give the students grocery shopping tips.

JK Livin’ is making a positive and healthy difference in the lives of high school children. For more information about the program, visit their website at www.jklivinfoundation.org.