Building Character

The Compass Program

Santa Catalina believes in educating the whole child—developing strong values and upstanding character in each of our students. Our character development program, Compass, provides time and space for children in different grade levels to come together on a regular basis, strengthening the school community through leadership opportunities, social connections, and service projects. Students learn to work and play cooperatively, to find joy in success, to heed the messages of their mistakes, and to value their inner lives with attention paid to their moral and spiritual development.


A Year in Compass

Older girls walking hand-in-hand with young boy

The Compass year begins with a sorting ceremony as new students are welcomed into their houses. Afterwards, students break off into their Compass circles for getting-to-know-you games.

Boy rolling pumpkin as older girl helps

Pumpkin Olympics, held around Halloween, is the first big event that Compass houses participate in. Houses compete against each other in a series of relay games, and older students can often be seen helping younger ones.

Young girl sitting on older girl's lap in chapel

Compass circles sit together during Chapel Sing and Mass throughout the year. Not only does it reinforce the bonds within the circles, it gives eighth-graders a chance to practice their leadership skills as they keep the younger students focused.

Kids singing Christmas carols

Compass houses go Christmas caroling every year at four senior living facilities around Monterey—one of their favorite service projects.

Kids cheering

Pep rallies are held toward the end of every sports season to celebrate our student athletes, and Compass houses cheer on their classmates during fun and friendly relay games.

Boy lit by candle in chapel

The Compass year ends with the Installation Ceremony, where circle leadership is passed from one year's eighth-graders to the next.

Compass Houses

Students are placed into four houses named for the pillars of Santa Catalina's mission—Excellence, Spirituality, Responsibility, and Service. Each house has about eight smaller circles made up of students from kindergarten to Grade 8. Eighth-graders serve as circle leaders, and faculty members act as facilitators.

Students congregate with their fellow "housemates" during regular activities such as pep rallies, Pumpkin Olympics, chapel, and community service activities.

A fifth house, the House of Kindness, includes our PreK students. Led by their teachers, these children learn to share, to say "please" and "thank you," and to always be kind. Once they enter kindergarten, they can't wait to be sorted into the four main houses.


Leadership development is a core component of Compass. Students are provided with opportunities to stretch themselves during the course of each year by means of leadership roles in the classroom, on the playground and athletic field, and in service work.

Eighth-graders serve as Compass leaders for their circles. They gather weekly for a leadership class, where they anticipate upcoming activities, such as service projects, and prepare to implement them in their individual circles. The curriculum also involves leadership exercises, discussions, and reflection, with servant leadership as the focus, considering characteristics of a leader who leads for the good of all. Compass leaders begin to understand which characteristics within themselves they can best draw on as they guide their circles.


Many of the Compass activities focus on community service. Whether they are taking care of their campus by recycling, reaching out to the local community by collecting donations for the food bank, or participating in global projects such as Alegria, students are taught to look beyond themselves and become sensitive to the needs of those around them.

“Compass gives us freedom to really get to know the kids and blossom as leaders.”
—Jasper, eighth-grade Compass leader