It’s been three weeks since Compass opened its doors. André and I have continued to field calls from interested families, meet new volunteers, add tutorials as requested, and one teen and I made an appearance on Daytime Ottawa (we’re working on getting the video clip). But more than anything, a culture is being created at Compass.

The teens who come to Compass know that we value their freedom, initiative, and sense of well-being. We demonstrate this every day by giving them the choice of what they do, by helping breathe life into their ideas, and by addressing personal conflicts as they arise. We have already facilitated several “annoyance meetings”. They allow teens to learn how to get along with each other – even if they do not have to necessarily like each other all of the time.

A few snapshots:
Yesterday, everyone attended computer programming, as usual. One teen was so excited by the “Scratch” program he was learning, he spent the rest of the day creating games using the new skills he had learned. He did not have to sit through a series of classes dreaming about the games he would create after school, after homework, after…. He could direct his passion how he wanted in the moment.

When new volunteers come in to meet André or I to discuss working at Compass, it is routine to walk them through the offices and ask the teens some variation of: “Hey, this person here is a painter, would you be you interested in taking a painting class?” The past week alone, I have gone through this ritual to introduce the idea of a book club, an animal behaviour class, a drama class, and math tutorials. As I do this, I have the feeling of a hawker walking through a marketplace selling wares. The teens know they can answer honestly, and they don’t hesitate to do so. I am not disappointed to hear a “no” coming from them; it signifies that a choice has been made from someone newly empowered to do so.

All of us went ice-skating last week, when it was a mere -15, not -30. I returned early with a few teens because of the cold. On the way back to our space at the Bronson Centre, one of the teens asked, “When we get back home, can we make hot chocolate?” That is exactly what we did. I loved hearing the ease and comfort that teens are feeling reflected in their language in referring to Compass. It is the language of home.