Maesa Al-Amin, 17, is a senior at Southern School of Energy and Sustainability. She is a competitive dancer on the school’s dance team with dreams of owning her own dance company and dancing in music videos. She has performed at the Durham Performing Arts Center for “An Evening of Entertainment” and at Hillside High School for Stargaze. She is a good student with great grades since childhood – but the school suspended her for 10 days in January for having a weapon on campus.
Maesa and her friends arrived to school late on the last day of exams smelling strongly of marijuana, so school officials searched their bags. Maesa did not have any drugs on her, but she did have a Taser for self-defense. She was suspended and referred to Rebound for Youth Alternatives.
Rebound for Youth Alternatives is a program that works with Durham Public Schools to offer suspended students a place to go during their time of suspension, keeping them on track with homework and working to improve on what led to the suspension in the first place. The staff stresses the importance of learning how to self-reflect in pressured situations as well as learning the importance of academics. Interns completing their master’s degree in social work link up with students one-on-one and in small groups to find out what caused the incidents and see how to help.
“I fully believe that it takes a community to raise a child,” explained Arvetra Jones, director of engagement and student family coach. “If a parent sends their young person to Rebound, they will be taken care of.”
Thanks to Rebound’s partnership with Durham Public Schools, teachers are able to send suspended students the classwork and homework they are missing so they do not get behind. Rebound staff members work with the students to complete the schoolwork.
Maesa said that she was glad she participated in Rebound during her suspension rather than sitting at home.
“I was able to focus, and it wasn’t as hard to catch up when I went back to school,” Maesa explained. “We talked about college and my future.”
After her suspension and her time at Rebound, her grades did not suffer.
Maesa’s mother, Mahasin Al-Amin, agreed that Rebound was beneficial to her daughter’s education and her attitude.
When she first heard of Maesa’s referral, she was pleased.
“I was happy because she wouldn’t be sitting at home and losing all that time,” Al-Amin explained. “It may not seem like a long time, but 10 days is a long time to be out of school.”
Jones stressed that the student and the parent or guardian have the option to decline participation in Rebound.
“The teachers there were awesome,” Al-Amin continued. “They made sure they were getting help. I could tell by her behavior that it wasn’t a setback. She wasn’t depressed. I would recommend anyone to Rebound.”
Rebound operates at the Durham Teen Center, located at 1101 Cornell Street, allowing students to stay after the program ends at 2:00 p.m. rather than going out and getting involved in less-than-positive things.
“It may seem like it’s in a bad place,” Maesa said, “but it helps you a lot and keeps you on track. It doesn’t hurt to try.”
Her mother agreed, saying, “It is a phenomenal stepping stone, and people should take advantage of it,” she said.
Jones said the mission of Rebound is to leave him unemployed.
“Rebound wants to decrease suspension,” he said, and “to eliminate suspension — and to put me out of a job.”
Students in the Durham Public Schools are eligible for a free bus pass for the bus that will take them to the Teen Center and to Rebound.
Maesa has plans to open her own dance studio in the future that will help young people stay out of trouble as well as help them discover their purpose. She is maintaining a solid grade point average (2.8) that will give her a chance to attend college and learn more about opening her business in dance.