What is Compass?

Compass exists to support young people in discovering and creating their best possible selves. Compass fosters this process through individualized collaboration between staff and teens. Guided by an advisor, learners take responsibility for their own educations, envisioning and realizing their own goals at their own pace. Teens become leaders in their own lives, and adults become useful mentors and guides.

How we Operate

Through membership at Compass, young people aged 9-18 have access to the following depending on their level of membership:

  • Choice in number of classes per week
  • 1:1 tutoring
  • 1:1 mentoring
  • Opportunity to collaborate on class choices
  • Compass Community Time
  • E-Portfolio
  • Screen-free lunchtimes for ages 9-12
  • Optional Outings
  • Once/month community meetings
  • Parent Connection Groups
  • Guest Speakers
  • Interactions with Community Volunteers

… and more as we create it together!

Teens (13-18) have access to the following:

  • Tech Club 
  • Art Studio 
  • Ongoing Workshop Block
  • Academic Skills Block
  • Lunchtimes with screen-use guidelines written by teens
  • Assistance setting up community apprenticeships
  • Support for University or College admission processes

 Our Approach

Tomorrow’s leaders need a different skill set, one that includes intrinsic motivation, vision, and creative and critical thinking.

Compass’ educational experience goes well beyond conventional practices and offers students a personalized approach. We are supporting students to do much more than get by or get through it, but to thrive.

The research is clear: learning is most successful when it is personalized, meaningful, and active. Learning is something you DO.

The Mentoring Relationship

The Seeker or Scholar membership levels include weekly meetings with an advisor. Your advisor will get to know you well and help you plan, make choices, reflect, and keep up your personal digital portfolio.

We believe that learning extends well beyond the classroom. We’ll help you connect your interests, classes, and projects into a personalized curriculum.

Your advisor will help you schedule tutorials, pursue independent study, and access resources both at Compass and in the community.  This relationship is at the core of the Compass experience.

Our Philosophy

Seven principles that guide our work at Compass

1. Young people want to learn.

Human beings are learning creatures. We don’t have to persuade babies to be curious and to seek competence and understanding. The same can be true of teenagers. Rather than trying to motivate teenagers, we support their basic human drive to learn and grow. Where obstacles – internal or external- have gotten in the way of this intrinsic drive, we focus on helping teenagers overcome or remove these obstacles.

2. Learning happens everywhere.

Conventional wisdom says that children “go to school to learn,” as though learning can only occur in places specially designed for that purpose. We believe that people learn all the time and in all kinds of places. It doesn’t have to look like school or feel like school to be valuable, and it’s not necessary to make distinctions between “schoolwork” and “your own hobbies” or “for credit” and “not for credit.”

3. It really is OK to leave school.

Many young people who are not happy in school – academically or socially – stay because they believe that leaving school will rule out (or at least diminish) the possibility of a successful future. We believe that young people can achieve a meaningful and successful adulthood without going to school. We’ve seen it happen, over and over again.

4. How people behave under one set of circumstances does not predict how they will behave under a very different set of circumstances.

School success or failure is not necessarily a predictor of a child’s potential for success or failure outside of school.  An unmotivated student may become enthusiastic and committed after she’s left school. A student who doesn’t thrive in a classroom environment may become successful when allowed to learn through apprenticeships or in one-on-one tutorials. When we change the approach, the structure, and the assumptions, all kinds of other changes often follow.

5. Structure communicates as powerfully as words – and often more powerfully.

It’s not enough to tell kids that we want them to be self motivated, or that we want them to value learning for its own sake, if the structure of their lives and their educations is actually communicating the opposite message. Voluntary (rather than compulsory) classes, the ability to choose what one studies rather than following a required curriculum, and the absence of tests and grades all contribute to a structure that supports and facilitates intrinsic motivation and self-directed learning.

6. We should mostly strive to “make possible” rather than “make sure.”

Most of the time, adults working with young people can’t truly make sure that young people learn any particular thing – learning just doesn’t work that way. A group of adults can decide that all fifth graders should learn fractions, but when it comes to each individual child’s genuine understanding and retention, we can’t actually make it happen or guarantee that it will happen. As adults, what we can do, however, is try to make things possible for young people – provide access, offer opportunity, figure out what kind of support will be most helpful, do whatever we can to help navigate the challenges and problems that arise.

7. The best preparation for a meaningful and productive future is a meaningful and productive present.

Too often, education is thought of in terms of preparation: “Do this now, even if it doesn’t feel connected to your most pressing interests and concerns, because later on you’ll find it useful.” We believe that helping teenagers to figure out what seems interesting and worth doing right now, in their current lives, is also the best way to help them develop self-knowledge and experience at figuring out what kind of life they want and what they need to do or learn in order to create that life. In other words, it’s the best preparation for their futures.

*adapted with permission from North Star