Soboba Tribal Preschool says goodbye to its kindergartners

Wayne Nelson and the Intertribal Bird Singers perform social songs with help from kindergarten students. The boys play gourd rattles they made at school. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Special to Valley News

The 16 kindergarten students who make up the class of 2022 from the Soboba Tribal Preschool were celebrated with a special program at the Soboba Sports Complex Friday, June 3. Friends and family had lots of balloons, air horns, confetti poppers and smiles as the young ones were introduced by their teacher, Sierra Vivanco, to receive a personalized recognition.

Those who completed kindergarten and will enter first grade for the 2022-2023 school year include Gabriel Armijo, Lamonte Bigsby, Mayla Briones, Joseph Burton, Anaya Grant, Tónla Hurtado-Laurenzana, Malia Kashersky, Mona Medina, Tony Mendoza, Rheya Miranda, Tillie Ortega, Eli Pineda, Shay Razon, Makayla Trujillo, Yawáywish Vega and Thomas Velazquez.

Preschool Director Donovan Post, who is also principal at Noli Indian School, welcomed everyone to the event, stating it was the first in-person ceremony they have hosted in the past couple of years. The school serves children from age 2 years and 9 months through kindergarten, which is typically age 5 or 6.

“We really appreciate the love, support and all you give these kids,” Post told the audience. “This year has been a little different since we have kids back in person learning together. We’ve also added more technology.”

Post thanked all the staff for their efforts throughout the year and thanked Soboba Tribal Council members Chair Isaiah Vivanco, Vice Chair Geneva Mojado, Secretary Monica Herrera, Treasurer Daniel Valdez and Sergeant at Arms Kelli Hurtado for their continued support.

“Not only do they attend all the events but the Tribe financially supports the school so we can bring all these great opportunities to the kids,” Post said. “I’m happy to say our kindergarten class is fronted by a Soboba Tribal member. She’s somebody who got the education and came back to work for the Tribe. I tip my hat to Sierra Vivanco for everything she’s done this year.”

He also said that Vivanco and classroom aide Amber Young complement each other very well and make a great team, supporting and teaching the children.

Wayne Nelson and the Intertribal Bird Singers led the kindergartners in two social songs with the boys playing the gourd rattles they made at school. The girls danced in the bird skirts made for them by Noli students under the direction of Tashina Miranda Ornelas, coordinator and instructor of the school’s culture department.

The children performed two songs they had learned, including Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” that was popularized in the “Toy Story” movie.

“I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to work with this group of students,” Vivanco said. “It was my first year working here after graduating from Cal State San Marcos. I am very honored to present them with their certificates today.”

As each student took center stage to receive their certificate of completion, she provided some insight as to what made them stand out in the classroom and beyond. Gabriel was a hard worker and fast learner; Lamonte, aka Spiderman, was eager to learn, she said. Mayla showed independence and wanted to be a police officer, and Joseph was very enthusiastic in all he did and is quite the artist, Vivanco said. Anaya was always protective and willing to help out; Tónla is a loving person who never took “no” for an answer. Malia likes gymnastics and is always sweet and kind to others; Mona is an animal lover who might become a horse trainer. Tony showed much determination and wanted to go into construction, while Rheya enjoyed playing with friends and was always helpful and paying attention. Tillie loves animals and readily engaged in open discussions, and Eli was always eager to help friends and excited to be at school. Shay enjoyed learning about dinosaurs and his hugs and chats will be missed; Makayla made friends easily, was very respectful of others and wanted to be a singer, Vivanco said. Yawáywish took pride in her neatness of work and wants to be a science teacher, and Thomas is proficient in math and wants to be a firefighter one day, she said.

Soboba’s preschool educational program for Native American children has a curriculum that is designed to enhance social, intellectual, physical and emotional growth. Its philosophy is to provide a learning environment where children may explore, question and create without the fear of failure or criticism from adults or peers.

The classrooms provide daily learning experiences in math, language, art, computer technology, social development, culture and science. Noli science teacher Jay Dagostino has weekly interaction with the kindergartners on “Mr. Jay Fridays” teaching them about different aspects of science and engineering in fun and hands-on ways.

All preschool teachers provide experiences that enable the students to learn about and appreciate their Native history and culture, to be proud of themselves, their ancestry, their language and their community. Luiseño language instruction is implemented on a daily basis through songs, fingerplays, stories and dance.

Addressing the students to emphasize how much they will be missed, Vivanco said, “Watching you all grow has been one of the greatest gifts. I hope that you will remember where your education began and someday come back.”

Young also shared her thoughts, saying, “I am so proud of all of you. The many changes we have had to grow through together have made this year so exciting. From distance learning at home to learning how to stay in our personal bubble at school, we have learned so much. Thank you for dancing, singing and learning with me all year. Remember to smile and if you need to borrow one of mine, you can always come see me.”

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