Soboba tribal members cheer for grads

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Soboba Tribal Preschool kindergartners are welcomed to a personalized promotion ceremony Thursday, June 25, with colorful balloons and lawn signs for each student. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

Mike Hiles, Special to Valley News

Rachelle Peterson, tribal member of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians, found a unique way to celebrate the milestone accomplishments of fellow tribal members, including her sister and cousin, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Families were invited to decorate their vehicles and participate in a 3-mile-long student recognition parade Friday, June 26, through the Soboba Reservation on Castile Canyon Road and Soboba Road, ending at the old casino parking lot. About 30 vehicles staged at The Oaks, 45750 Castile Canyon Road, to finalize decorations that recognized their family’s graduate or multiple graduates in some cases.

College graduate Raven Peterson, left, and high school graduate Mariah Morreo are cousins who participated in a student recognition parade for Soboba tribal members Friday, June 26. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

“I thought we should honor our students within our community because they didn’t get to have a (traditional) graduation ceremony this year,” she said. “I called my cousin Mike Castello suggesting a parade and he went to tribal council and got it approved. This is the first time we’ve ever done this, but I think it should be done every year from now on.”

Peterson’s cousin Mariah Morreo graduated from Hemet High School and is headed to the Institute of American Indian Arts in New Mexico, and her younger sister Raven Peterson graduated from California State University San Marcos with a double major in American Indian studies and political science and is researching law schools to attend.

Decorated vehicles line up at The Oaks in preparation of a parade to celebrate all tribal members who recently graduated from various grades and schools. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

Before the evening’s parade, kindergartners from the Soboba Tribal Preschool spent all day Thursday, June 25, being recognized individually for completing their first school year. Each student’s family signed up for a 15-minute block of time when they could come with their young child to receive their special awards and a large plastic sand bucket and a “snuggle bag” filled with projects from throughout the year and games and treats to keep them busy during the summer.

Teacher’s aide Antonia Venegas spearheaded a frybread and taco fundraiser to help with the cost of the celebration. The tribe supported the event, and the school collected more than enough money to purchase decorations, lawn signs and goodies for all the students.

While each student was singled out for an attribute or special quality that contributed to the class, Kihuut-Tuukut Adame was given the school’s first-ever award for perfect attendance.

Staff members at the Soboba Tribal Preschool cheered on all graduates in the tribe’s student recognition parade. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

Preschool director Dianne King thanked each family for their support and dedication to keeping their students engaged and connected during the time they had to spend at home rather than in the classroom. She said the coronavirus pandemic challenged the school, families and the community but it also taught the students firsthand about compassion.

Students who advanced to first grade include Kihuut-Tuukut Adame, Julian Briones, Nola Briones, Muukumikat Gonzalez, Sukmal Herrera, Rihanna Kashersky, Kyle Kolb, Alize Lara, Alena Lugo, Maylee Masiel, Marilyn Mendoza, Jayden Miranda, Kainoa Nunez, Takoda Nunez, Mac Pineda, Jake Ramirez, Zyanya Reyes, Yawaywish Russell, Alylah Salgado, Tulóvat Témanxwanvish, Kali Valenzuela, Atreyu Valenzuella, Tuupangawish Valenzuella, Ash-wut Vega and Kuláawut Vega.

Tribal members who earned high school diplomas included Gilbert Almanza, Ayallkawut Arivso, Monique Arres, William Arres, Michael Barsz, Jasmine Basquez, Raven Basquez, Wanbli Basquez, Chanupa Boniface, Jarred Briones, Arianna Carmelo, Roxy Castello, Devin Devore, Juanmanuel Garcia, Angel Gonzalez, Faith Guzman-Soza, Joe Hernandez, Geovani Herrera, Loovi Herrera, Jolina Jordan, Yawaywish Laupsa-Briones, Bailee Lindsey, Daniel Lugo, Larry Lugo, Raymond Masiel, Gavin Merchant, Erika Modesto, Lawrence Modesto III, Shaun Molina, Ariana Moreno, Mickey Morillo, Mariah Morreo, Nicholas Munoz, Daniel Ortega, Sheila Pimentel, Nathaniel Placencia, Kenny Ramirez, Shylynne Razon, Ariana Resvaloso, Fabian Reynoso, Blaze Romp, Phoenix Rubio, Thomas Salgado, Shayna Silvas-Thomas, Adam Smestad, Isaac Soza, Avelaka Soza, John Valdez, Tanisha Valdez, Alejandro Vallejo, Josiah Vargas and Gabriel Walker Smith.

Higher education graduates include Shade Briones, Jason Cozart, Jenna Gilmore, Sasha Hurtado, Catherine Modesto, Richard Moreno-Mahan, Raven Peterson, Petey Rhodes, Cynthia Salgado-Flores and Autumn Vivanco.