Mike doesn’t talk a lot. When he does, you might hear him say, “I hate school. What’s the point? This is boring!” Mike is a ninth grade student who is so far behind academically that he has come up with an arsenal of disruptive behaviors to avoid situations that make him uncomfortable. Often he lashes out at others or simply refuses to do anything at all. Mike forces us to ask the question, “Should we as educators and community members write this kid off as a lost cause, or should we support a kid who needs someone to pay attention?”

Compass Project provides all students, even Mike, with structure and support in a positive and safe learning environment so that they can succeed. Building a boat can’t change the adverse circumstances of Mike’s life, but it has empowered him with the skills needed to deal with adversity. Student responses in post-program surveys overwhelmingly reflect feelings of pride from having persevered through a challenging project, appreciation of peers and teachers, an ability to learn from mistakes, confidence, and a realization that they can accomplish something that they had never imagined was possible. 2015 has been a year of growth for Compass Project, shifting operations from Portland under Spurwink to Biddeford as a program of Engine, a community arts, design, and educational organization. We’ve pared down our overhead to a staff of one and a half.

Biddeford High School has generously granted free workshop space on campus, eliminating our facilities expenses completely. Engine is providing support and exploring the potential to grow Compass Project programs. While this change presents opportunities to continue our core mission-related programs and to broaden the reach of community involvement through adult and youth workshops, design-build programs, and an expanded rowing program, the transition has not been not without hurdles. Our relocation to Biddeford shifted some important relationships with school partners and volunteers, previously a big part of our success. We are thankful for those who transitioned with us and for the new partners and volunteers that await us in Biddeford. Compass Project relies on a diverse funding stream of grants, program fees, special events, and the sale of student-built boats. But we also need your support so that we can continue to support students like Mike throughout southern Maine.

Consider making a MONTHLY DONATION to help us create a sustainable future or a one-time annual donation of any amount. Thank you for providing young people with the extra support that they need in order to succeed!

P.S: Save September 29, 2018 for our first ever Biddeford Maker Faire in the Pepperell Mill Campus, including the Compass Project!