Soboba Tribal Preschool celebrates Thanksgiving

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Soboba Tribal Preschool students from the prekindergarten class perform songs for family members during a Thanksgiving celebration at the Soboba Sports Complex Tuesday, Nov. 16. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Special to Valley News

Soboba Tribal Preschool Director Donovan Post organized three days of luncheons at the Soboba Sports Complex, Nov. 15-17, in an effort to be cognizant of continuing pandemic concerns while allowing families to celebrate Thanksgiving together.

Kindergarten students joined family members on the first day, prekindergarten children celebrated the second day and the final day was reserved for the preschool and junior preschool children and their family members.

Each student got a table with six chairs to enjoy the individually boxed turkey lunch with all the fixings. Tables filled with sweet treats such as pumpkin pies, cookies and cupcakes were available for dessert.

“We set up 25 tables about 10-feet apart each day, for safety reasons,” Post said. “We went with prepackaged meals instead of a buffet that included everything, right down to the cranberry sauce.”

Aside from lunch and spending time together, the students treated guests to seasonal songs they had learned. On Nov. 16, the pre-kindergartners sang, “Thanksgiving Time is Here,” “Hello, Mr. Turkey, How Are You?” and more. The songs incorporated their classroom lessons about fall colors of red, yellow and brown. Each of the children had made a turkey hat in class and many wore them to the event. They also created a colorful turkey art project using their own handprint. Photo opportunities were offered with a fall-themed background set up in the lobby.

The Nevarez family got to enjoy the fun twice as 5-year-old Charlie Mae Hunter had her special day, Nov. 16, and her sister, Penny Jo Hunter, 3, was invited the next day. Charlie Mae’s favorite part of the day was singing.

Their mother, Emma Nevarez, said in 2020 she had three children attending the preschool but her eldest daughter, Betsy Lou, graduated from kindergarten in June.

“I love our preschool,” Emma Nevarez said. “I think the staff is great; they always go over and beyond.”

The girls’ grandfather, Mike Nevarez, said, “I love that in these times when we still need to be able to celebrate, we are given this opportunity to do so. It was also nice being served lunch by the preschool’s director, Mr. Post.”

Brooklyn Goseyun, 5, started at the school this year. Her mother, Jaymie, said she loves the school because it’s culturally appropriate and teaches the students many different things.

“The events they plan are good for the kids,” she said.

Yolanda Valdez was enjoying spending time with her grandsons. Luciano Marquez, 5 is a pre-kindergartner, and his 4-year-old brother Eric was set to attend the event the next day. Younger brother, Malakai, 2, hasn’t started at the preschool yet.

Their mother, Daylena Bentiste, said she likes the teachers and the fact the school helps children get involved with their tribe.

“They need to know about their heritage; it’s important for them to know,” she said.

Bentiste said she knew the words to all the songs her children performed because the boys practiced all the time at home. She said they enjoyed that part the most.

Jena Davis, 4, has been at the preschool for two years. Her mother, Julie Resvaloso, said attending class online during the pandemic was difficult and it was her daughter’s first year of physically being in a classroom.

“I’m always excited for her school events,” she said. “And I thought the food was delicious, especially the turkey.”

Students will be out of school an entire week for the Thanksgiving holiday and will get a two-week break starting on Dec. 20. The school is planning a similar three-day Christmas celebration for its 65 students before their winter vacation.