An Exchange of Empathy
Written in collaboration with Alex Stylien, Head Caseworker
Head Caseworker Alex Stylien will be completing his thirteenth year at COMPASS this February. When he first heard of COMPASS in 2007, he jumped at the opportunity to begin to develop and hone his skills as a behavior specialist. From the very beginning of his time at COMPASS, Alex realized that he had a knack for empathizing with students and the situations that they were in – inside and outside of school.
When Alex arrives at COMPASS around 8AM each day, his first task is to greet students arriving at school and to conduct screenings of students. These screenings are intended to protect students, staff, and the entire school environment. Alex’s primary responsibilities lie with the Lower School, the elementary and middle school students at COMPASS. As a Head Caseworker, Alex makes sure that all “stations” are covered and assists staff where needed. Caseworkers are assigned a station throughout the school to provide a safe and nurturing environment in which students can successfully navigate daily life challenges through informed decision-making.
Throughout the rest of the school day, Alex constantly checks in with Lower School students. He expresses that, “I am mindful of each student’s needs, and I tailor my approaches accordingly.” Alex has learned throughout his time at COMPASS that being consistent, yet flexible when needed, is the best tactic to take in order to create bonds and respectful relationships with students. Utilizing fairness and consistency when enforcing expectations of students allows Alex and the rest of the COMPASS staff to establish trust with the students. Alex, along with all staff, sometimes don’t see the impact of the work that they put into each student that crosses the COMPASS School’s threshold. Though, when a student does come back a few years later to say “hi” and “you helped me”, Alex is spellbound because he is able to notice a maturity and responsibility that he had a small part in nurturing.
The most memorable times Alex has had while working at COMPASS was when he chaperoned more than five field trips to Washington, D.C. with high school students. The students that got the opportunity to attend the trip were close to graduating and had also excelled behaviorally throughout the school year. Staff chaperones and students drove down to D.C., which allowed for flexibility in traveling and a familiar environment for the students. During their trip, staff and students explored museums and monuments, giving them a chance to “learn about the rich history of our nation’s capital”, says Alex. Additionally, Alex explains that this trip gave students “the ability to learn responsibility, maturity, and getting along with others – allowing positive relationships to grow.”
Upon reflecting about his thirteen years at COMPASS, Alex states, “I’ve had a lot of growth here at COMPASS.” He recalls that all of the skills that he has learned and honed throughout his time at COMPASS have allowed him to be a better professional and overall person, “I practice these skills at work and at home,” says Alex. “Empathy is the key to everything.”