Soboba Tribal TANF continues to keep youth connected

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Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Special to Valley News

The Soboba Tribal TANF Program Prevention Resource Center is running its Tribal Cháamcha Lówwivuktum activities virtually and as take-home projects for its 12- to 19-year-old participants. February was dedicated to the topic of online safety awareness. Program specialist Olga Gomez Munoz said the PRC staff takes many things into consideration when choosing TCL activities and topics.

“We surveyed youth in the beginning of fall 2020 asking what they would be interested in participating in for our TCLs this year,” she said. “Based on their interests, we choose activities that we can adapt into either a take-home or virtual activity. We try to focus on topics that currently affect our youth demographic to promote awareness.”

She said that PRC staff, which includes regional prevention manager Harold Arres, actively participate in various webinars and trainings targeted at professionals working with youth and at-risk youth. Youth are currently in a unique situation in which they are navigating through the most technologically advanced time in history, a divisive political climate and a global pandemic.

“We try to provide activities and topics that address the issues unique to their current social and cultural situation,” Gomez Munoz said.

About 30 youth are registered with the program, but there are many more who utilize the tutoring services that PRC offers but fall outside the TCL age range. Y.E.S. Homework Help is being offered virtually for K-12 students.

Turnout has been great for all programs, Gomez Munoz said.

In February, youth were invited to participate in the viewing of “The Social Dilemma,” a documentary that explores how social media compromises people’s data and privacy and uses this information for profit. A virtual question and answer session was held to discuss the film with viewers. Parents and guardians were encouraged to watch the film with their youth to better understand how online platforms collect and use that information and how that affects society.

Some of the questions PRC staff posed to the youth were: Do you think technology has shaped any of your day-to-day behaviors? For example, do you unconsciously check your phone or do you have an emotional response to negative content? How is social media used to misrepresent or create hate toward minority groups? For example, have you seen negative stereotypes in videos, gifs or memes? And does your family have rules about devices or social media? For example, do you have to turn your phone off at a certain time?

Gomez Munoz said youth shared that they find themselves looking at their phones frequently, and some shared that they feel anxious if they do not check their phone. Some youth shared their families’ rules regarding cellphone usage and how they are not allowed to have their phones out or in use at the dinner table.

“Family time spent without the distractions of social media was something youth valued,” she said. “We also discussed how to check cellphone screen time and data/statistics of how much time is spent on each app.”

A guided painting take-home activity kit called “Art for Wellness” will kick off the month of March that will focus on the youths’ well-being.

“The purpose is for youth to express their creative side and do an activity that is easy and fun in which they can de-stress,” Gomez Munoz said. “Some of our participants have been doing these alongside their siblings and making it into a family activity. We provide the materials and step-by-step instructions so all our youth can create a wonderful piece of art no matter their artistic level.”

During the month, program participants will be asked about their goals, achievements, challenges and feelings about 2020. They will be guided on how to take what they learned from their experiences to develop a plan to accomplish their goals in 2021. Youth will also be asked to share how the year is going so far. Their answers will be shared in an anonymous live poll/survey of each question.

“The anonymous live polling allows youth to feel more comfortable sharing their ideas and feelings while showing them that others may be experiencing similar things,” Gomez Munoz said.

For more information, visit http://www.sobobatanf.org or call 951-487-9075, ext. 4303.