The Cristo Rey – Discover Partnership Reaches Beyond the Work-Study Program

Discover Financial Services is not only a leading partner for Cristo Rey St. Martin’s (CRSM) Corporate Work Study Program, with 28 CRSM students covering 7 full-time-equivalent positions at Discover, in recent years Discover has deepened the partnership through their Discover Cares program as well.  Discover Cares is a highly developed and far reaching volunteer program created by Discover Financial Services to help employees give back to the community.

On October 26th the entire CRSM junior class (102 students) traveled to the Discover corporate offices in Deerfield, IL to participate in a day of learning and service.

Part 1: Jurisprudence in the Morning

The class spent the first half of their day participating in a mock trial. Written, presented and moderated by the Discover legal department, the program was a clever mini-curriculum designed to familiarize the students with the basics of constitutional law.

In what was characterized as a crash course, the path to a Supreme Court case was clearly illustrated for the students and then presented in the context of the landmark Supreme Court case, Texas v. Johnson.

The students were divided into three groups; respondents, petitioners and judges. They were then asked to study some basic case law in order to help them formulate effective arguments.

The mock defendants, plaintiffs and judges assumed their roles, presented arguments and made decisions about the famous case. Arguments from both sides were made regarding the burning of the American flag, “symbolic speech” and protections under the First Amendment.

None of the students knew the outcome of the famous case. Only after the votes were tallied were they treated to real audio recordings of the arguments and decision made back in 1988.

Tomás Rivera, Kelly McNamara and Michael Grey spoke about their hopes for takeaways for the students. All mentioned the values that Cristo Rey and Discover share – civic involvement, volunteering and giving back to the community.

“We hope becoming a lawyer for a day will help them develop oral arguments and understand the value of taking a position. Exposure to civil discourse is critical to any student’s education,” said Rivera. “The Cristo Rey students are demonstrating solid logic and persuasive skills.”

There could be no doubt about the success of the exercise – “vigorous,” continuing arguments about the landmark decision could be heard from one end of the lunch room to the other.

Part 2: Helping Foster Kids in the Afternoon

The second half of the day was spent on a slightly more raucous note. Discover Cares asked our Cristo Rey juniors to help in partnering with Together We Rise (TWR), a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming the way kids experience foster care in America.

The challenge was to build 200 gifts for kids entering foster care. Working side-by-side, Discover volunteers and the Cristo Rey juniors built eighty (80) bicycles, decorated and fulfilled sixty (60) care duffels and finished sixty (60) birthday boxes. The team completed all 200 pieces on-time.

Eighty bikes. 80 kids in great need – kids that might not have experienced the thrill of that first bike.

In Chicago, kids entering foster care receive two trash bags containing their essentials. But on this day, sixty duffel bags with comfort items like a toothbrush, a teddy bear, a blanket and a coloring book – all with hand-decorated messages of care were delivered instead of those trash bags.

Sixty kids received a decorated birthday box wishing them a happy birthday and a personal message of hope and caring.

Not a bad way to end the day.