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Matthew McConaughey Tells Teens: Just Keep Livin'

Actor and dad Matthew McConaughey helps at-risk youth get healthy and remembers his dad, who taught him to give back. Plus, his new movie, 'Magic Mike.'

The Lessons of J.K. Livin

The idea, then, is to both break a sweat and open a mind. With a staff of district teachers and coaches recruited and paid by j.k. livin for their after-school participation, the program offers kids much-needed emotional and physical guidance. For McConaughey, that guidance begins with learning to count your blessings -- and maintaining a positive attitude.

"We want the kids to have and to understand gratitude ... to open doors to new things coming into your life," he says, pointing to the "gratitude circle," an integral part of the program during which kids discuss what they are thankful for. "When kids finally get comfortable enough to be part of the gratitude circle -- and that's not an easy thing, because saying 'thank you' when you're 17 in front of a bunch of people is not really cool -- I was most surprised when they were thankful [for] the foundation, that they now had a safe place to go."

Many of the program's participants come from single-parent homes, some with a harried mother struggling to keep it all together. Many have expressed surprise, McConaughey marvels, that j.k. livin is willing to give them so much time and attention. Others, he says, report: "'I'm less stressed when I get home [now]. I've got more respect for all my mom does, how hard she works. You showed me that.'"

Matthew McConaughey: Giving Back

McConaughey credits his own father, who "always taught me to give back," with inspiring him to launch the foundation. It's also the reason the actor expects the program's kids to show up for their communities.

"Yeah, it's free," he says of his foundation. "But it can't be a one-way street! You get more out of what's given to you when what's given to you demands you give something back. We introduced community service. I didn't know how the kids would react. I thought they'd say, 'No, man, I ain't giving up my Saturday to go down and pack up food for the troops in Afghanistan!' But they love it and fully participate. They take more pride, and it gives the program a little more teeth, because it demands time and effort from the kids. They love that responsibility."

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