In 2015, Cristo Rey Jesuit partnered with DiscoverU, a non-profit organization that connects disadvantaged youth to Fantastic Learning Opportunities™ (FLO™). Since then, more than 200 Cristo Rey Jesuit students have received exclusive educational experiences on U.S. campuses and around the world. DiscoverU offers guidance to students pursuing individual interests and provides resources for travel. Our adventuresome students return with even sharper minds and remarkable memories after gaining valuable knowledge in a variety of fields. They have opportunities to attend classes in the areas of business, engineering, medicine, aviation, architecture, culinary arts, photography, and more, as well as intensive language courses for international students.
Jazmin is one of hundreds of Cristo Rey Jesuit students to benefit from the school’s partnership with DiscoverU. This past summer, Jazmin participated in a boat trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon where she discovered much more than the beautiful and inspiring towering rock formations that jut out from the river. She also discovered the rewards of assisting students who are visually impaired; some students who are completely blind. As an initially shy girl, she wanted an opportunity to develop leadership skills, to learn to take initiative, and to practice teamwork. Jazmin received what she hoped for and so much more.
Jazmin’s daily routine was consistent over her two weeks in the Grand Canyon, but everyday brought new adventures and obstacles. She and her team of 18 students slept on sandy terrain under the star-filled sky each night, alongside the Colorado River. Each morning they woke up at 5 a.m. to make breakfast and pack up the boat as they discussed which skills they learned. They also performed team-building exercises. After spending eight hours on the boat talking, debating, singing, and snacking, they would end their day by finding a new campsite along the river to rest their heads for the night.
Under the instruction of three National Park and River guides, Jazmin was able to build confidence and become a leader. Jazmin used the sense of touch as the main form of direction to teach visually impaired students. She said one of the greatest adjustments she had to make was changing her verbiage. She did not realize how often she, and everyone around her, used sight words as explanations. Jazmin acknowledged a significant challenge was ensuring the visually impaired students were fully assisted without making them feel like their disability was a prime focus of the program.
“This program was a life-changing experience that brought me joy, immense challenges, and made me a better person,” Jazmin said with tremendous passion There were no cell phones on this trip, so she learned to live in the moment with no sense of time. In times when she felt homesick, she learned the importance of communicating her feelings. She stepped out of her comfort zone and met new friends, one who she even calls a best friend now! Much to her surprise, she discovered a new interest in working with the Natural Park Service and the conservation of natural sounds.
Thank you DiscoverU for making this possible for Jazmin and the hundreds of Cristo Rey Jesuit students who have benefitted from your programs, and to those who learn from future programs. We cannot wait to see where our students go next!
By Bailey Holbrooke