Marblehead teens travel the world, lead service-learning projects

Fifty Marblehead teenagers will be heading across Europe this summer on service-learning trips with the local nonprofit Stone & Compass. They’ll be volunteering at a Sicilian orphanage, planting trees in the Scottish Highlands and running a summer camp in Bulgaria.

Stone & Compass interns Clara Donovan (left) and Maeve McIlroy, both MHS students, on a dairy farm in the Azores

“The thing about Stone & Compass that I find extraordinary is that it’s built around making global connections,” said Clara Donovan, a Marblehead High School junior and Stone & Compass intern. “In all of these trips, yes, I’ve been doing service and volunteering. But the main point is I’m working with people from those areas. It’s really about partnering with them and working with them to create a better environment.”

Rob Goodwin and his wife Julie Kiernan, of Marblehead, launched Stone & Compass eight years ago as a way to engage teens in environmental and sustainability projects around the world. To fund those projects and youth service trips, Goodwin runs a travel and tour company.

“We run tours to raise money to build projects for communities in need and then tag youth to those projects,” Goodwin explained. “I really feel like we’ve got something special.”

Stone & Compass is different from many other service-learning organizations in that it’s largely run by the students themselves. The teens identify and research projects and then develop and implement plans, including service-learning trips.

“Being an intern, we speak to project leaders in many different countries to help build their businesses,” said MHS junior and intern Maeve McIlroy. “It’s really rewarding.”

Interns have addressed the United Nations and, recently, Donovan spoke to the U.S. Strategic Command in Washington D.C. about Stone & Compass’ global mission and impact.

The interns also support local causes, including the Edith Dodge Fund here in Marblehead.

Stone & Compass has a center in Bulgaria, which also hosts several service learning trips. “They typically focus on the environment and climate change, potable water and all those problems we face,” Goodwin said.

‘Everybody is drinking the Kool-Aid’

Stone & Compass volunteers on a beach cleanup in Bulgaria

Since COVID, Stone & Compass has expanded exponentially. “We’ve grown in size five times in the last seven months. Everybody is drinking the Kool-Aid,” Goodwin laughed. Since launching, it has partnered in more than 40 international projects, including a new hospital in Uganda that is opening in January.

“It is 30 miles from the capital of Kampala. It’s going to serve a 50-mile radius of local communities,” Goodwin said.

There’s also a project on a small dairy farm in the Azores, where Stone & Compass is helping to introduce new sustainable farming methods.

“We’ve had tons of Marblehead students go there,” Goodwin said. “The entire project was thought up, developed and run by Marblehead High School students. They raised the money.”

Stone & Compass teens cleaning a park in Bulgaria

Other international projects include:

Kenya: Building a cultural center to spotlight the Maasai culture. Local Maasai women will sell their crafts there.

Serbia: Supporting a sustainable organic hazelnut farm north of Belgrade. The farmers hope to build better infrastructure in their village, stimulate the local economy and protect local natural resources.

Mexico: Partnering with the Green Go Solar Project to train people and businesses in Baja to reuse cosmetically defective solar cells.

Looking ahead, Goodwin has set some pretty big goals for Stone & Compass.

“In the next five years, we want to change the world via youth empowerment. It’s not a cliche, we believe it.”

To learn more about Stone & Compass, visit

+ posts

Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter. She also works as a PR specialist.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: