COMPASS Youth Collaborative has named Dean Jones as the new Director of COMPASS Peacebuilders.

Mr. Jones, a long time Hartford resident and youth advocate, comes to COMPASS by way of STRIVE, a workforce development agency where he served as the program manager.

His passion for serving the community stems from first-hand knowledge of community needs. “I grew up in Hartford, attended Martin Luther King Elementary, Fox Middle School, and Weaver High School. I got into some of the street life our young people are involved in,” he says. By 23, he found himself serving time for a drug conviction. “I just realized that something had to give. I didn’t want to live this lifestyle, and I knew I was capable of doing something positive.”

In 2005, recently released and looking to make a difference, Dean became an outreach worker for Hartford Communities that Care. He eventually found himself employed by COMPASS through an emerging program known as COMPASS Peacebuilders. He spent his days managing a case-load of in-risk youth while balancing a full course-load at Springfield College and Boston Gordon Conwell Theological Institute. All the while, he worked towards obtaining an official record pardon from the State of Connecticut.

When he graduated from Springfield with a Bachelors in Human Services, he left COMPASS to pursue his Masters in Social Work from the University of Connecticut. “Once I got that Bachelor’s degree, I didn’t want to stop,” he says with a laugh. “It must have been divine intervention because I really wanted to go to UCONN. I had a weekend to get the application in – a ten-page essay, three references, my academic record – but I did it and haven’t looked back.” In 2015, he achieved his degree and a year later, received an official pardon.

In many ways, his return to COMPASS is a fitting capstone. He has lived a life dedicated to fostering the potential of young people, both in his professional life and through his work as a basketball and football coach. In 2010, he established the Hoop Wave basketball program. Unlike many clinics, which focus solely on basketball fundamentals, Hoop Wave provides mentorship and a focus on post-secondary preparation. It’s an opportunity that he hopes to make available to the young people enrolled in COMPASS Peacebuilders, one of many programs he plans to extend as the new Director.

“We are very excited to have Dean at the helm of this program,” reflects Bob Pawloski, Chief Executive Officer of COMPASS. “He brings stellar credentials, strong community relationships, and a personal passion for the work that will sustain and grow what is truly an innovative model.”

For his part, Dean believes the new role will further his ability to influence the hardest to reach youth. “I’m upfront about my story in the hopes that it will inspire someone else,” he states. “I tell the kids all the time: you are not defined by how others define you. You can define who you are and set a vision for your life. I’ll be the first to say that it’s not easy. It takes a lot of work, but if you’re committed, anything is possible.”

To connect with Dean, you can reach him at deanjones@compassyc.org

By: Clare Timmis
Feature Photo Credit: Dean Jones, 2017 | Julie Burbank