Earning good grades is a reward all students strive for but being honored for it in front of friends, family and your community makes it extra special. Tribal members from the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians who are in middle and high school, as well as recent graduates, were recognized at the 2019 Academic Achievement Awards Ceremony on July 28.
Those with a grade point average of 3.0 and above were singled out for their hard work and dedication to school. Tribal Council members presented each with a certificate, trophy and braided lei with dollar bill rosettes. Chairman Scott Cozart, Vice Chairman Isaiah Vivanco, Secretary Monica Herrera and Sergeant at Arms Rose Salgado greeted each student on stage so they could be applauded for their efforts.
“We are constantly looking for ways to bring our community together and to recognize our youth for their accomplishments,” Herrera said. “We are very proud of them."
Cozart opened the luncheon ceremony by welcoming about 150 guests to the Soboba Casino Resort Event Center. This is the fourth year the event has been held to recognize student scholars.
“We want to acknowledge all the elders and family members that are here today supporting the success of our Tribal youth and more importantly, we are here to celebrate the achievements they have made,” he said. “Achievement can be defined as something accomplished with special effort. These youths have proven that hard work and dedication can result in amazing accomplishments for our people. We owe it to them to provide them with the tools to succeed.”
Jade Makayla Reyes was the only recipient of a Platinum Certificate of Academic Excellence for her 4.0 GPA. She is a seventh grader at Rancho Viejo Middle School in Hemet and her favorite subject is art.
“I’m going to do the same thing next (school) year and strive for another 4.0,” said Jade, 12.
Her mom, Breanna Reyes, said she always stresses the importance of education to her three children.
“I always made sure she planned ahead to prepare for tests and staying in communication with her teachers was really helpful,” Reyes said.
Daniel Vazquez will begin eighth grade at North Mountain Middle School in San Jacinto this month and was one of 17 recipients of a Silver Certificate of Outstanding Achievement for maintaining a 3.0 to 3.4 GPA.
“The first two quarters I did great, but I had to work hard to stay strong later on,” said Daniel, 13. “I talked to my teachers and they helped me get back on track.”
He admits getting distracted by video games but learned from experience that his studies need to be his priority. Daniel’s favorite subjects are language arts and social studies.
Sisters Ava and Kaya Ciccone-Cozart both earned a Gold Certificate of Superior Achievement for a GPA of 3.5 to 3.9. Parents Allison and Jason Cozart said their girls are hard workers and very competitive.
“I give them positive reinforcements and make sure they have the tools they need,” Jason Cozart said. “Fortunately, they both understand how valuable education is and that it leads to opportunities in life.
He said they have great role models in their older cousins, girls who played softball in college and showed them how it can be done.
Ava, 12, said her favorite subject is social studies while Kaya, 16, plans to study kinesiology in college so she’s taking an elective sports medicine class at Hemet High this coming school year.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to see them be so successful because we want them to be everything they can be,” said Dee Cozart, the girls’ grandmother.
Tribal elder Marian Chacon was at the event to congratulate her great-nephew, Rudy Sanchez, who also earned a Gold Certificate.
“It’s nice to recognize what our young people are doing,” she said. “I’m so proud of what they’ve done.”
There were 22 young people who were awarded a certificate of recognition for successful completion of all high school graduation requirements.
“It is such a nice feeling to see these young students do so well and to recognize them for excelling in their academic careers,” Salgado said. “I am also happy that we were able to honor our recent high school graduates as well.”
Vivanco said this event is just one way to help young tribal members succeed. He let them know that there are agreements in place with local colleges such as California State University, San Marcos and the University of Redlands so they can have a smoother pathway to continue their educations.
“We are fortunate to be able to help alleviate some of their stress,” he said. “We’re a small community so it’s easier to assist those headed in that direction.”
Vivanco added that the one-of-a-kind gifts presented to high school graduates give the younger students an incentive to continue doing well.
“It’s something cool we like to give to the kids,” he said.
Gold Achievement honorees with a GPA of 3.5 to 3.9 were Jayden Basquez, Iyana Briones, Ava Ciccone-Cozart, Kaya Ciccone-Cozart, Yawaywish Laupsa-Briones, Avellaka Manzanilla, Dilhitchalakai Delores Modesto, Tishmanim Rhodes, Lorraine Andrea Salgado-Galvan, Rudy V. Sanchez and Riley Ward.
Those recognized with Silver Achievement for maintaining a GPA of 3.0 to 3.4 were Jasmine Basquez, Jarred Briones, Jimmy Briones, Tatianna Briones, Crystal Rae Devore, Loovi Herrera, Victor Hurtado, Byrie Lindsey, Lawrence A. Modesto III, So’a Nelson, Luisa Rivera, Tanya Elizabeth Rivera, Soowut Rodriguez, Carmel Paul Valenzuella IV, Alex Vallejo IV, Daniel Vazquez and Jocie Yepa.
Class of 2019 high school graduates who additionally received a hand-etched pottery plate and a Pendleton blanket with the tribe’s logo on it were Ataax Arviso, Delbert Briones, Shaleen Castello, Eliana Duro, Skylar Gavin, Sherrina Herrera, Brandon Karnes, Canyon Lindsey, Ryder Lindsey, Italia Manzanilla, Jade Lisa Morillo, Nicholas Novotny, Celena Pimentel, Antonio Reynoso, Lynnae Rhodes, Jetta Rikerd, Louie Rivera, Temet Etu Rodriguez, Raquel Romero, Ariyana Salgado, Raymond Smestad and Anthony Vallez.
Photos: Courtesy of Rodrigo Pena Photography