The Soboba Sports Complex gymnasium was filled with excitement as anxious family members waited for kindergarten students from the Soboba Tribal Preschool to enter the room on June 5. Before that moment arrived, a slideshow featuring all 21 youngsters in their caps and gowns followed by group photos of them in classroom activities was punctuated by cheers and applause.
After the children were seated on the stage, teacher Laura Aldrete welcomed families and friends to the Kindergarten Class of 2023 celebration. “First, we would like to thank Tribal Council for helping and supporting our Kindergarten. Thank you to all of our families for their love, support and encouragement,” she said. “We would like to thank the staff and the teachers. This year has been one to remember but we made it!”
Even though Aldrete and teacher’s aide Mayra Barrientos were only with the class for the past couple of months, due to personnel changes, they said it was a privilege to have worked with such an amazing group of kindergartners.
“Ms. Mayra and I wish the kindergarten class all the best in their new journey and what awaits them,” Aldrete said. “We know you will achieve great things because we know you can.”
Students who successfully completed kindergarten and are headed off to first grade in the fall are Penelope Alcala, Aaron Arenas, Joseph Bentiste, Xwáyish Briones, Demi Cervantes, Jena Davis, Freddie Duran, Koba Lindsey-Gallardo, Manalice Garcia, Zeppelin Godinez, Liam Grant, Charlie Mae Hunter, Nikolas Lara, Luciano Marquez, Hailey Medina, Mila Nunez, Notóomo Salgado, Samuel Shaheen, Journey Silvas, Kenai Silvas and River Valenzuella.
Preschool Director Donovan Post welcomed everyone to the ceremony. He thanked families for choosing to enroll their children at the school and for supporting them and the school throughout the year and thanked staff for all their efforts. “Our number one goal was to be here for these kids day in and day out,” he said. “I’d also like to thank Sierra Vivanco who was our kindergarten teacher at the start of the year. She worked with us for a few years, and she did an amazing job. We appreciate all the efforts that she gave to us during the time she was with us this year. Ms. Laura and Ms. Mayra are an amazing team that have stepped up and taken over so now we have a great foundation for how everything can be better in the future.”
Wayne Nelson provided a blessing and with the Intertribal Bird Singers invited the children to join in during two social songs. Young boys played gourd rattles they had made earlier in the school year and many of the young girls were wearing bird skirts under their graduation gowns that Noli Indian School students had helped them create.
The class performed a song about how they had learned to read, write, listen, tie their shoes and be kind to friends this past year. Then each student was called to the front of the stage to receive their diploma and a personalized certificate to showcase what made them shine. Their favorite memories and future plans were also shared. Some aspire to be superheroes and others are looking to become firefighters or police officers.
Not surprisingly, most students cited playing with friends outdoors or in the classroom as their favorite memory about school. Some said they enjoyed the bus rides they took to the Soboba Sports Complex for special events throughout the school year and several others said doing their homework was their favorite part of school.
Graduates and their individual accolades are Penelope, Rockstar Reader; Aaron, All-Star Athlete; Joseph, Master Mathematician; Xwáyish, Perfect Penmanship; Demi, Fabulous Friend; Jena, Future Teacher; Freddie, Loyal Listener; Koba, Thoughtful Thinker; Manalice, Delightful Dancer; Zeppelin, Spectacular Scissor Skills; Liam, Handy Helper; Charlie Mae, Stellar Smile; Nikolas, Incredible Illustrator; Luciano, Splendid Storyteller; Hailey, Numbers Ninja; Mila, Alphabet Ninja; Notóomo, Outstanding Observer; Samuel, Technology Wiz; Journey, Happy Heart Hero; Kenai, Enthusiastic Explorer; and River, Incredible Imagination.
Gloria Vivanco had a front-row seat to watch her great-grandson Aaron Arenas graduate from kindergarten. With two children and seven grandchildren, Vivanco said Aaron is the oldest of her 11 great grandchildren, with three more babies expected soon.
Soboba Elder Alice Helms proudly watched her great-great-granddaughter Manalice Garcia receive her diploma and be laden with balloons and plush toys by many family members after the ceremony.
Soboba Tribal Preschool Office Manager Amber Lopez said if she had one word to use to describe this year’s class, it would be perseverance. “They had a lot of changes this year and still came out on top. I am very proud of them for all their hard work and focus,” she said. “I will miss my morning chats with them as I walked them down the hall to their classrooms; it was one of the many highlights of my day. I wish them all the happiness and success for their future.”
Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians