This local adult education school will close if state funding doesn’t come soon

By Anna Spoerre, @AnnaSpoerre

The Carbondale High School Rebound program — started in 1970 to give southern Illinois residents the opportunity to receive their high school diploma or earn their GED certificate — faces uncertainty going into next school year thanks to the state budget impasse. 

“If we don’t have a budget by the end of June, we’re going to plan on not opening in the fall,” Stephen Murphy, superintendent of Carbondale Community High School, said of the program that serves about 225 students every year. 

The prospect of the school’s closing is concerning to employees and alumni of the program, which, like most state-funded institutions, has not seen any state money since July 1 amid the budget impasse between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic legislators.

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Jake Burns, 21, of Murphysboro, said he never had a formal high school education because his parents pulled him out of school in eighth grade. At first first he thought it was really cool to be out of school, but he said that feeling of freedom only lasted for so long.

“You realize you’re in a gutter and you’re not going anywhere with life,” he said. “It just sucks.”

In 2013, when Burns was 18, he came to Rebound to complete his GED before he started at John A. Logan Community College in Carterville that summer.

“This place is a crutch for a lot of people who have been told that they don’t mean anything or that they don’t matter,” he said.

He said the people here change students’ lives.

For him, that person is Candy Calcaterra, who recently helped him get admitted into SIU with more than $10,000 in scholarships per year.  

“Three years ago I would have never thought I’d be at SIU,” Burns said with a grin as he pulled his new student ID out of his wallet. 

Burns is not the only one who got a second chance at an education at Rebound.

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When Marcie Johnson first stepped beneath the colorfully-painted ceiling tiles in the small, five-classroom school, she had not received an education past 11th grade. Decades later, she decided she wanted to receive her high school diploma.

Johnson, now a grandmother of two, started at Rebound in 2005 — testing at a fourth-grade reading level and a third-grade math level.

“The more I learned, the better I started caring about myself,” she said. “Education gives you tools.”

She graduated from Rebound in 2010 with a high school diploma and has attended John A. Logan College since, working toward an associate’s degree in art.

“I didn’t care about nothing until I started going to school and seeing that there’s a better life out there,” she said. “I like me now, and that’s a good feeling.”

Even though Johnson no longer attends Rebound, she said she doesn’t let a month pass without visiting, greeting all her old teachers with a big hug.

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Marla Martin, who has been an adult basic education reading instructor at Rebound for 15 years, said once someone has been a student, they are always welcome back, especially since a lot of the students stay in the area.

“If their life is chaos, they come here and have support they don’t have elsewhere,” she said. “It’s the labor of love over here.”

Stephanie Brown, who has been a family educator at the school for 10 years, said many people have the misconception that just because someone is at Rebound, they behaved poorly in high school.

“They aren’t bad kids,” she said. “They’ve had bad situations in their life.”

Calcaterra, a guidance counselor at Rebound who will be retiring this spring, said the program works with groups such as the Women’s Center, Centerstone and Good Samaritan Ministries to help students get any outside support they need to succeed. 

However, if the school closes, she said it will be very difficult for the students to find another place to continue their education.

“We’re not advocating just for us to keep employment,” Brown said. “No, we’re worried about the hundreds of students who are not going to successfully complete their high school diploma if we’re not here.”

She said all of the teachers there make less than $25,000 a year.

“Rebound is Carbondale’s best kept secret,” Brown said. “It’s a diamond in the rough.”

Anna Spoerre can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325.

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