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Real Life ... Teen Choices team stays flexible in these changing times

"Semper Gumby" is the motto Real Life … Teen Choices Director Rebecca Swearingen used in her military days to refer to the constant flexibility needed when things changed "again." It has also been the motto the Real Life team is living by these COVID-19 hampered days as they adapt to the needs of the schools they are serving.

“Semper Gumby is a play on words from the Marine Corps motto Semper Fidelis, which means always faithful,” Rebecca said. “So Semper Gumby means always flexible. Gumby was the little green toy that was super flexible. It applies to our program because we are having to be super flexible.”

The Real Life training schedule was pretty full at the beginning of the school year. However, they knew at any given time things could completely change … and they have. In November, the Real Life team was able to serve three local schools virtually and two more in person. For December, they served two schools in-person and one school with two weeks of virtual teaching to accommodate their hybrid schedule. They also sent videos to one school to accommodate their remote learning schedule. And they currently have two schools on the calendar for January.

Semper Gumby, indeed! From week to week, day to day and sometimes minute to minute, teaching plans have been fluid, moving from in-person to virtual to sometimes even blended.

The team has worked together to make it work and persevere through the continuous change. The result is still impacting students’ lives. A couple of examples came just last month:

  • At the end of a week of training at Graham Middle School, two students’ comments stood out among numerous positive accolades. Both said they have decided to wait to have sex until they get married.

  • During a virtual class at Xenia High School, a student shared with one of our educators that they hadn’t been making the healthiest of choices lately and wanted to make a change.

  • The teamwork that is producing positive results like these is also spilling over to our team’s own families, who recently helped with the rearranging of the Real Life area of the FYI office.

“All the members of the Real Life team are parents and struggle with the constant change at the schools with our own children,” Rebecca said. “We have to support each other through this time through laughter, tears, stories and prayer.”

As 2020 closes, the team continues to serve the students the best they can and complete as much of the curriculum as possible within the given restraints.

“The team is committed to bringing joy and hope to the schools and doing the best they can with what they are given,” she said. “The team is living what they teach … flexibility, healthy coping techniques, communication and conflict resolution.

For more information on FYI’s Real Life Teen Choices program or how you can get involved, call (937) 845-0403 or email

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