We are COMPASS.  Since 1974, we have impacted the lives of over 42,000 students, parents, and family members.

COMPASS’ mission is to equip those it serves with the skills to become self-sufficient, productive members of their communities and society.

COMPASS specializes in providing services to youth and families that have been referred by public systems, including public school districts, and the Department of Children and Families.

Founded in 1974, COMPASS is a nonprofit organization that provides services to an at-risk population of youth, adolescents and families. We are dedicated to providing comprehensive and individualized educational, stabilization, transition, counseling, support, and enrichment services through our school-based and family-based programs. Throughout our history, we have maintained a commitment to providing the highest quality services, with an experienced, committed, and diverse staff.

Each year, we provide services to over 4,000 youth, adolescents, and adults.


In its various programs, COMPASS provides services to a wide variety of clients, including children and adolescents, families, public schools and school districts, and other private non-profit and public organizations. We define the quality of the services we provide in terms of the following core values:

  • Respect: We treat everyone in our community with respect
  • Relationships: Our services are based on a foundation of close and caring relationships with our clients.
  • Partnerships: We engage our clients as partners in problem solving.
  • Individualization: We develop interventions and solutions that are tailored to the specific needs of our clients.
  • Capacity Building: We facilitate with our clients the process of developing, as quickly as possible, their own independent capacity to progress and succeed.
  • Teams: We foster a team approach to the delivery of services.
  • Cultural Competence: Our staff members understand, respond to, and embrace the cultural and linguistic diversity among our clients.
  • Timeliness: We respond quickly to the requests of our clients.
  • Reflectiveness: We constantly examine our practice and make adjustments to benefit our clients.
  • Comprehensive: Our programs and services address the full range of client needs.
  • Responsiveness: Our programs constitute a fluid and flexible segment of the public education and human services continuum.
  • Professional Development: We are committed to ongoing transformational professional development, including training, supervision, and ongoing support for our staff.

Our History

Established as CAP Special Education. Programs included special education, outreach and tracking, and foster care. Name changed to Boston Basics in 1977 to reflect broader mission. New programs included an intensive remedial education program for CHINS students referred by the Boston Juvenile Court.

Basics included four storefront schools and counseling centers located in South Boston, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, and Charlestown. Named one of 45 organizations nationwide honored by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency for “richness and diversity of approaches being used to avoid unnecessary incarceration of young people.”

Began long-term relationship with Boston College PULSE Program as a placement site for BC students. Reorganized as COMPASS. Students received special recognition for class work entries from Roxbury District Court as part of its Law Day competition.

Selected by the Boston Public Schools to serve as the emergency referral site for severely emotionally disturbed and learning disabled secondary students. Secured a long term lease on the former Blessed Sacrament School in Jamaica Plain. Selected by residents of Harbor Point to operate an after school program on site. Established the COMPASS Violence Prevention Program.

Established intensive therapeutic tracking program for Department of Social Services. Began relationship with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps as site for full-time interns. Designed and implemented emergency special education program for Springfield, MA Public Schools. Featured in WBZ-TV’s public service “Time to Care” Campaign.

Cited in editorial by WBZ-TV as one of four outstanding programs for children statewide. Boston Globe article recognized COMPASS’ prevention work with high-risk children.

Completed first capital campaign that supported major renovations for our Jamaica Plain site. Opened second site in Jamaica Plain for COMPASS Community Services Department.

Recognized by Massachusetts Legislature for “Outstanding Leadership in Violence Prevention.” Opened fully equipped restaurant kitchen in vocational education program. Established COMPASS College Scholarship Fund for present and former COMPASS students. Recognized by Massachusetts State Senate for “dedicated service and positive influence to young people.” Established our first nationwide program, the Inclusion Support Program, called COMPASS Consulting Services.

COMPASS launched first version of its web site. A front-page article in the Boston Herald features a COMPASS student, a former gang member, who secured a scholarship to Boston College. Established internship program for teachers at Wheelock College. COMPASS student wins Boston Herald Scholastic Competition. Joined the Boston NYPUM Collaborative.

Established the COMPASS Intensive Support Program at English High School. COMPASS student wins local poetry contest and reads his poem to Poet Laureate Maya Angelou in Roxbury. Mayor Thomas M. Menino proclaimed May 29, 1998 as COMPASS Violence Prevention Day in the City of Boston. Received the Peer Leadership Recognition Award from the Massachusetts Council of Human Service Providers.

John Lydon becomes COMPASS’ Executive Director when longtime Executive Director Dave Manzo leaves to become the President/Executive Director of the Cotting School. Mr. Manzo remains involved with COMPASS as a member of its Board of Directors. Yvonne Vest, former principal at COMPASS, also joins the Board.

COMPASS invited to participate in the Rodman Ride for Kids, an umbrella matching gift charity raising funds for youth focused social-service agencies that support at-risk children in Massachusetts.

Opening of COMPASS Café, under the direction of Chris DeRocher, provides the public with an opportunity to experience first hand the skills and accomplishments of the students in the Culinary Arts vocational program.

COMPASS Consulting is hired by Jordan Brand, a division of NIKE, Inc., to manage the Jordan Fundamentals Grant Program. A successful merger takes place with The Holden School, a Charlestown school with a similar vision and mission. COMPASS’ Administration and Community Services Program Staff move to their new headquarters at 329 Centre St. in Jamaica Plain. COMPASS is selected for participation in the Board Fellows program of the Harvard Business School (HBS), which matches Harvard MBA candidates with the boards of directors of nonprofit organizations for eight month engagements.

Middle School Academy After School Action Program (A.S.A.P.) is launched, which provides remediation and academic and enrichment services for low-income students aged 12-15. COMPASS Consulting administers over $1 million in Jordan Fundamentals grants. Peg Savage retires after 24 years of service as Business Manager.

Responding to economic challenges, COMPASS consolidates its 2 school service sites, offices for the Comprehensive Support & Stabilization Program, and administrative offices. This involved moving from 2 sites in Jamaica Plain and one site in Charlestown to Bowdoin Street in Dorchester, at the site of the former St. Peter’s School.

ASAP program expands to the Orchard Gardens K-8 School in Roxbury. CSS Case Worker Steve B. is honored with a commendation letter from (then) Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Legislators from Boston attend a meeting at COMPASS to discuss issues pertaining to Chapter 766 – private special education schools.

Comprehensive Support & Stabilization continues to expand the number of Department of Children and Families Area Offices that are served. During these five years, COMPASS doubles the number of families serves and works with 17 Area Offices of DCF, including the 4 offices of the Boston Region (namely Park Street, Dimock Street, Harbor, and Hyde Park), Framingham, Lowell, Lawrence, Haverhill, Cambridge, Malden, Cape Ann, Lynn, Arlington, Brockton, Coastal North Central, and South Central.

COMPASS also expands its workforce and employs 21 Family Specialists and 12 Family Clinicians, many of whom are bilingual to address the needs of families whose primary language is not English, including Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, and Cape Verdean Creole.

COMPASS’ effectiveness in serving the families involved with DCF is evident in our growth.  In 2007, COMPASS was averaging approximately 44 families a month but in 2012 COMPASS averaged 95 families a month.

The school hires a full time Speech and Language Pathologist to better respond to student needs.

The Alternative Education Program AEP Program (Pilot) closes after serving youth ages 16 – 20 who have dropped out of school and are returning to earn a high school diploma.

The School hires a full time Occupational Therapist, who begins to collaborate with the Speech and Language Pathologist to conduct weekly skills classes. The skills classes consist of a combination of the Social Thinking curriculum and the Zones of Regulation Curriculum.

The school opens a new classroom, our Daily Living Classroom. This classroom is self-contained and includes academic and vocational classes. The students in this classroom demonstrate more internalizing than externalizing behaviors.

Comprehensive Support & Stabilization begins providing Family Navigation to young adults referred by the Department of Developmental Services (formerly DMR).

COMPASS announces a new position for the organization, Chief Operating Officer, and Laura Lajewski assumes this role in July. Laura was previously the Education Coordinator at the COMPASS School. In the new position, Laura will help to sustain and continue the growth of the COMPASS core programs.

The After School Action Program (ASAP) ends in June, 2015 after running in different Boston Public Schools over the years, offering quality academic and enrichment programs to middle school students. The program began in the Dever School in Dorchester, Orchard Gardens in Roxbury and Middle School Academy in South Boston.

Comprehensive Support & Stabilization is selected by the Massachusetts Child Trauma Project to be a participant in their Intensive Learning Community to provide their Parent Track Curriculum in Trauma Informed Care.

In February 2016, CSS began working in the Worcester area. Staff are excited to build relationships with new DCF offices and expand our capacity with hiring clinicians and family specialists in that area.

Our new Lowell site at 45 Merrimack Street opened in April 2016 and is in full operation by staff working with youth and families on the North Shore.

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