Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Special to Valley News

Near the end of the previous school year, staff at the Soboba Parks and Recreation Department began offering a chance for youths aged 10-17 a place to gather and enjoy fun activities. It was such a success that they are offering Youth Night once again Mondays and Wednesdays through Nov. 21.

“We’ll stop during the holidays and then resume after winter break,” activities director Jennifer Garcia said. “We have a variety of activities to offer. Some like sports and everyone is into being crafty right now.”

This current interest in arts and crafts convinced the staff to offer a unique art activity for its first Youth Night of the school year, Wednesday, Sept. 7. Participants were encouraged to come by anytime during the scheduled two-hour event that started at 5 p.m.

Offered an array of pre-printed pictures on black velvet backgrounds, ranging from nature and animals to space and fantasy figures, artists were given brightly colored markers to personalize their creations.

Several young people were joined by Parks and Recreation staff members to dialogue and create during the event. Light snacks and drinks were also provided.

“We wanted the kids to have something to do after tutoring or after school,” Garcia said.

Recreation aide Michael Durrett said he enjoys overseeing some of the sports activities with the youths.

“This gives them a reason to get out of the house and be with friends,” he said.

Nephreteri Salinas, 17, was using her own artist’s sketchbook to freehand some artwork. Sports coordinator Steve Lopez said she has been one of the regulars since the program was launched last spring.

“I do enjoy being here,” she said.

A senior at San Jacinto High School, she developed a strong interest in art during the summer and is enrolled in a draw and paint class at school this year.

The Youth Night also helps out families who can use the time to work on their own projects at home or run errands and more, knowing their children are in a safe and secure environment.

“I’m really enjoying myself,” Akwaalimay Resvaloso, 13, said, as she continued to color a jungle scene with a baby leopard.

Wayne Walker Calderon, 14, is a freshman at San Jacinto High and said he thinks the program is “kind of rad” and allows for interaction with others while doing fun activities.

“We really like that we can offer students a place to go after school instead of having nothing to do,” parks and recreation director Andy Silvas said. “This gives them an outlet where they can meet, relax and have some fun.”

Collaborating with Soboba Tribal TANF for a few upcoming events, as well as other Soboba departments, there is a huge selection for participants to choose from in the coming months. Youth Nights in September will offer a bingo night, pool days, sports such as volleyball and basketball and gourd decorating with TANF.

Scheduled for October is a board game night, canvas painting and pumpkin carving with TANF. There will be no Youth Night Monday, Oct. 31, due to the Halloween holiday, but staff will be handing out candy so children are being encouraged to stop by.

Garcia said there is a movie night planned for November where they will utilize their popcorn machine, which is a favorite with the children. Fall harvest arts and crafts with TANF will be offered toward the end of the current session.

“We always get at least a handful of kids, but we’ve had up to 18 to 20 before so we know it can grow,” Garcia said.