Celebrating 25 years at COMPASS

On November 9, 2020, COMPASS announced that Beth Labbe, Principal of the COMPASS School, will be retiring in June 2021. Beth recently sat down with Gregg Grenier, Director of Development and Impact, to reflect upon her 25-year tenure at COMPASS – a career milestone she reached in January 2021. “This is still registering with me,” Beth began, “it is impossible to believe that 25 years have passed since the first time I walked in the door on Sunnyside Street (COMPASS’ previous location).” 

Beth’s career in special education began in high school when she volunteered with the Special Olympics and Camp Joy, a special needs summer program in Boston. When Beth entered college, she knew she wanted to study special education but did not know if she wanted to focus on youth with intellectual or emotional impairments. “As I worked in courses and in internships,” recounted Beth, “I realized that the two could not be so easily separated.” This led her to exploring both specialty areas and eventually deciding that her passion was to work with children with emotional impairments. 

Beth recalls that she was originally drawn to COMPASS “because it spoke to my passions and philosophy as an educator and as a person.” She is personally and professionally fulfilled by meeting new challenges head-on everyday, knowing that the people she works with truly make a difference, and being affiliated with a program that is dedicated to its mission. Throughout her 25 years with COMPASS, Beth has had multiple experiences that have left a meaningful impact on her. When there were moments that shook the staff and students, Beth fondly remembers “the way the staff came together to support each other and the students as we lived these experiences together.” One of these salient memories happened during the days after September 11, 2001. In COMPASS’ previous location in Jamaica Plain, there was no place for the school to gather as a group, so the staff and students gathered in the stairwell to honor the victims of the attacks. There were a few readings and a student sang a song to mark the occasion. Beth remembers that “there was a sense of common purpose and support among us – staff and students – that was palpable to me. I will never forget it.”  

Aside from the larger, more prominent moments during the last 25 years, Beth has been equally impacted by the “smaller” moments that are personally monumental to her. Every time she has seen a struggling student achieve their high school diploma, she remembers. Every time she hears from a student years after they have left COMPASS who talks about the impact she has had on them, she remembers. When she meets a student working in a local store who says hi and during the conversation says “COMPASS changed my life”, she remembers. Beth has been able to witness younger students grow and develop throughout their time at COMPASS that allow them to reach their fullest potential. All of these moments, according to Beth, are due to, “my colleagues, the COMPASS family, every day going above and beyond to teach, support, and hold our students and each other up.” This is what she will hold in her heart when she thinks of COMPASS. 

Even though she has announced her upcoming retirement in June, Beth is not finished; she is still fully committed to serving the students everyday. “I love the work we do, the students and families we serve, and the dedication and passion that our staff members bring to the school.”

Congratulations to Beth on her 25 years of service to COMPASS!

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