Compass Day focuses on personal stories

Waterville High School seniors with compasses and maps in hand, withteacher and Compass Day developer Dan Lopez. (Joel Harding photo)

Waterville High School seniors with compasses and maps in hand, with
teacher and Compass Day developer Dan Lopez. (Joel Harding photo)


By Joel Harding

On May 21, for the third year, Waterville teacher Dan Lopez sent the graduating class off with a symbolic, but very real, direction-finder for the future. Crafting his program after traditional society passages to adulthood, the writings of Greek philosophers and those of modern psychologists and anthropologists, Lopez encourages seniors to see their next years as a hero’s journey and to use the patterns developed in human history to help them on their way. An addition this year, was Habit 8 of Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Habit 8 is to understand our true nature. The compass given to students on Compass Day includes 16 principles which are very important tools to help students understand their own nature and the ideals which most strongly define them.

Lopez spoke first to the seniors, reminding them that each human must go on a hero’s journey. For many of us, more than one such journey is made in a lifetime. He talked about the familiar journeys, like Dorothy’s in the “Wizard of Oz” and Luke Skywalker’s in “Star Wars.” The first step is often leaving the familiar life they have always known. Seniors are on the verge of stepping into the unknown and must adjust to the uncertainties involved. The principles on the compass the students were given can be of help to them as they move into this unfamiliar territory. A short snippet from a television program called “Finding Joe,” describing mythologist Joseph Campbell’s studies on the hero’s journey, was shown. Then, Compass Day moved on to the guest speaker for the day.

Ariana Cozart is an attorney in Wenatchee. She grew up in Snoqualmie but spent her high school years in Waterville. She described her life as a series of hero’s journeys in which she had to make difficult decisions, but her inner drive to become an attorney enabled her to overcome the challenges. She now owns her own law firm, has a happy family life and is proud of what she has accomplished. She said that even though she faced some significant challenges, especially in her teenage years, the people of Waterville helped and supported her in achieving her goals. Her final words to the seniors were simple but direct. “Take care of your body, be kind and caring and keep in touch with the people that are important in your life.”

Compass Day is a celebration that is unique to Waterville High School. While it is closely associated with, and supports the leadership program at the school, it is also the effort of a single teacher, Mr. Lopez, to share important ideas from human history, as well as the real world experience of former Waterville students like Cozart, with the seniors of today. It is a valuable send-off into a challenging new world.