Soboba gets into the swim

The swimming pool at San Jacinto High School’s new Soboba Aquatics Center measures 25 yards by 38 meters and will allow for many sporting and fitness activities for students. Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

In an effort to offer San Jacinto High School students a way to participate in a competitive aquatics program, a pool was constructed on its campus and the public got its first look during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, Aug. 30. The Soboba Aquatics Center is more than a 25-yard by 38-meter swimming pool, although that is what elicited oohs and ahhs from the crowd that gathered for the event.

The $6.5 million facility features a Myrtha professional CIF-regulation pool, concrete deck, bleachers, digital scoreboard, coach’s office and all startup equipment necessary for swimming and water polo – all housed within the aquatics center structure.

San Jacinto High School principal Courtney Hall invited the Inter-Tribal Bird Singers and Bird Dancers, led by Wayne Nelson, to present a few songs after a Native American blessing was given by Steven Estrada.

“We believe excellence comes through equity and access and having our district open its first pool is a way of signaling to everyone that our kids deserve what every other student deserves,” San Jacinto Unified School District superintendent Diane Perez said. “I’m overcome with emotion and overcome with the support of this community that stepped up. And no one did more than the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians to make today possible.”

The entire Soboba Tribal Council was present, three of which are alumni of San Jacinto High School, including Chairman Scott Cozart, Vice Chairman Isaiah Vivanco and Sergeant-at-arms Rose Salgado. Several Soboba Foundation members in attendance also graduated from the school.

Salgado, a former school board member, presented a proclamation to San Jacinto Unified on behalf of the tribe congratulating them on the new facility. She said it has been a long time coming for the school to get a swimming pool, and she was proud that the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians was able to be instrumental in making it happen.

The tribe and the district have a strong and supportive relationship, Salgado said, and many tribal members have graduated from San Jacinto High. Attendees recalled the days when swim classes and meets had to be held at the Salle Park community pool and students had to walk the half mile distance to swim.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony included lots of fanfare with the Tiger marching band and cheerleaders performing for the crowd. A first jump fundraiser for the San Jacinto Education Foundation was added to the festivities.

In the days leading up to the event, donors could vote on one of five people they would like to see be the first one in: SJUSD school board President John Norman, Superintendent Diane Perez, San Jacinto High School’s principal Courtney Hall, ASB director Antoinette Miles or athletic director Amanda Galliano.

The total amount raised for the nonprofit organization was $1,557 with Norman and Perez tied in votes to take the first plunge in tandem.

The Soboba Aquatics Center will provide new opportunities for students to connect, develop new skills and stay physically fit. The pool will allow for competition in various water sports as part of the Mountain Pass League. There is also the possibility of opening the pool for public use on non-school days in the future.

“We’d really like to share this with the community,” Norman said.