Sharing a Sense of Purpose
Written by Sandy Skinner, Senior Director of Administration
When I tell people that I’ve worked at COMPASS for 32 years I get looks of shock, words of congratulations, and sometimes a raised eyebrow. I came to COMPASS right out of graduate school, referred by a trusted public school administrator who said, “it’s a wonderful place, and you will learn a lot.” Here I am years later still learning and still appreciating what COMPASS is, what it gives to its employees, and especiallywhat it does for its clients.
I was drawn to this work because the resiliency and humor that emotionally disabled and traumatized kids show is something to marvel at, enjoy, and learn from. I grew up in a very monochromatic community in central Massachusetts. I had very little exposure to other cultures in any of my school settings or the communities where I lived. The diversity of races, cultures, classes, and attitudes that COMPASS students and staff brought to the table was overwhelming and challenging at first. But at the same time, it was wonderful and has made me a better person. COMPASS gave me that. COMPASS also gave me the opportunity to implement new ideas, hold five different leadership positions, learn disability and employment law, be a consultant to public schools, manage large fundraising and celebratory events, and learn how to navigate Boston streets like a Bostonian!
Back in the late 80’s when I had to bring my own office supplies to work, when there was no staff refrigerator for my lunch, when there was no lunch break until the kids left for the day, there was a great sense of camaraderie among the staff. We did not complain about not having work luxuries because we had a shared sense of purpose in serving the kids. I learned so much from working hard as a direct service team member. To this day the value of teamwork is central to our work at COMPASS despite the fact that we have grown more than three-fold since 1987. COMPASS is not just a special education school, or just a human service provider, or just an employer. COMPASS is a team from all different walks of life who come together to support each other in making kids’ and families’ lives just a little bit better every day. Humor, dedication, patience, self-awareness, and a positive attitude is what I think about when I consider all of my colleagues and the challenging work they do every day.
Thirty-two years in I don’t work directly with kids and families any more, but I support the staff that does in any way I can. Whether it is trying to get the best benefits for our employees, lending an empathetic ear, or collecting household items for a homeless client… We are all in this together, and I’m proud to be part of the COMPASS mission.