Soboba Youth Council gets creative with distance learning

The Silvas’ children, Nanaat, 5, Noyaayakit, 8 and Allynn, 10, discover the first clue to the Soboba Youth Council Back-to-School Scavenger Hunt at the Soboba Sports Complex, Aug. 28. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

Mike Hiles, Special to Valley News

The Soboba Youth Council has become well known for its youth events and community service to the residents of the Soboba Reservation and to tribal members who may live elsewhere. Since the onset of the pandemic, limitations have been put on most outings, activities and other fun events the youth organize to coincide with the academic school year. This year’s classes began meeting online, so the youth council members set up an outdoor Back-to-School Scavenger Hunt, Aug. 28.

Students of all ages were invited to participate and take a photo of themselves at each of three clues that were displayed throughout the Soboba Indian Reservation, starting at the sports complex. Some youth council members were at the first clue location to explain the hunt, while other members were at the final spot to verify all photos and give each participant a raffle ticket.

Iyana Briones, left, chairwoman of Soboba Youth Council, videotapes the Soboba Youth Council Back-to-School Scavenger Hunt raffle drawing via Instagram, while Tatiana “Roo” Briones holds the cup of raffle tickets. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

About an hour after the event began, Iyana Briones, chairwoman of the Soboba Youth Council, logged on to the group’s Instagram account where a live drawing was held to choose six winners. Those students were asked to come to the sports complex to choose from one of four backpacks or two metal mesh desktop baskets filled with school supply themed gifts that were assembled individually by each youth council member. A donation by Briones helped with item purchases.

The council brainstormed for fun ideas to get school children out and about while they are distance learning, during a recent Soboba Youth Council meeting. Briones is joined on the council by other current members: vice chairman Edwin Muro, secretary Tatiana “Roo” Briones, treasurer Ciara Ramos and members-at-large Jeremiah Ramos and Crystal Devore.

Ramos said the group is always looking for more young people to get involved and accepts anyone ages 13-18. She said more members will provide more ideas and more hands to help get the work done.

Allynn Silvas wins a backpack filled with school supplies during a raffle held for participants of the Soboba Youth Council Back-to-School Scavenger Hunt. Congratulating him are youth council members Tatiana “Roo” Briones, Iyana Briones and Ciara Ramos. Valley News/Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians photo

“We had our last meeting over the phone,” Iyana Briones, a sophomore at Noli Indian School, said. “It took us about two hours to come up with this idea and all the clues.”

Clue one, which was posted at the sports complex, said, “While you’re up and around, go to the place where you’re 6 feet underground.”

When Samuel Venegas read it, he said he immediately knew it was referring to the Soboba Cemetery and urged his mother Antonia to hurry up and get back to the car.

Clue two of “Find your way up the road to the pit where stories are told” led players to The Oaks at the end of Castile Canyon Road. The third clue posted there told readers to “Go back down the road but go slow to a school zone where all the young kids go,” which led them to the Soboba Tribal Preschool.

Andy Silvas, youth council co-coordinator, who also serves as director of Soboba’s Parks & Recreation Department, said he enjoys watching the young members develop projects and then implement them to a successful conclusion.

In August, the youth collected donations of non-perishable food items, bottled water, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies to send to Navajo Nation elders and families affected by COVID-19.

For more information, find Soboba Youth Council on Instagram.