◆ By Mike Hiles
Family members and friends watched 22 students graduate from the Soboba Tribal Preschool’s kindergarten program that many had attended since the age of two on June 13. The following morning, 31 pre-kindergartners excitedly promoted to the next grade for the fall, many of whom will stay at the Soboba Reservation school.
As kindergartner Selena Rivera crossed the stage to receive her diploma and a performing arts award, she became the seventh in her family to complete the tribal preschool program. The first was her sister, Tanya Rivera who is now 15.
“Attending this school made me learn more about my culture,” said Tanya. “It also made me more open and willing to talk to people in the community.”
Six-year-old Selena, who wants to be a teacher when she grows up, said her favorite part of kindergarten was anything to do with math. Their parents said they feel their six daughters and one son built a very strong educational foundation with the help of the preschool program they all entered at the age of two.
“I think it helped they got more one-on-one attention here – they seemed more advanced in their learning when they got to first grade,” dad Louie Rivera said.
Mom Tanya Briones-Rivera said Selena is looking forward to first grade at Estudillo Elementary because she can’t wait to ride a school bus.
The preschool added a kindergarten class in the 2014/2015 school year when it moved into its new school building which is when their son, Manuel Rivera, graduated.
The children were reminded that the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians has created many job opportunities for them to aspire to after they complete the rest of their education. They no longer have to go out into the world to find success – they can make a difference in their own community.
Before being released to celebrate the adventure that awaits them, each graduate received a diploma, a customized award and their chosen career path was divulged.
The Kindergarten Class of 2019 is: Alawish Arviso (best all-around student, race car driver), Paa’ayat Arviso (super math, build and own a McDonalds), Aria Basquez (math, teacher), Gabriel Bentancourt (technology, zookeeper), Gilbert Bentancourt (engineering, dirt bike rider), Reuben Briones (STEM, car designer), Nayeli Brittian (homework, Target employee), Shuriah Cardenas (art, art teacher), Ashwut Castello (STEAM, firefighter), Veronica Kolb (math, teacher), John Lopez (athletic, police officer), Logan Lopez (social studies, lawyer), Navaya Masiel (most responsible, mom), Aubrey Mazza (best overall student, SeaWorld trainer), Briella Medina (leadership, baker), Marlee Mendoza (best friend, teacher), Kisil Morreo (perseverance, video game designer), Mary Rose Morreo (citizenship, chef at Disney World), Brian Ortiz (marvelous magnetism, police officer), Selena Rivera (performing arts, teacher), Anthony Torres (science, scientist) and Zeke Velazquez (performing arts, supercross rider).
Pre-kindergarten students had some strong ideas of what they want to do in the future as well. From doctors and teachers to police officers and an astronaut, the young children were all smiles as they completed the next step in their educational journey.
Class of 2019 students promoted to kindergarten are: Kihuut-Tuukut Adame, Alison Arrietta, Anastacio Basquez, Julian Briones, Nola Briones, Muukumikat Gonzalez, Sukmal Herrera, Rihanna Kashersky, Levi Kitchen, Kyle Kolb, Alize Lara, Nattane Lopez, Marilyn Mendoza, Jayden Miranda, Kainoa Nunez, Takoda Nunez, Isaac Peralta, Mac Pineda, Jake Ramirez, Chélésh Resvaloso, Zyanya Reyes, Yawaywish Russell, Alylah Salgado, Hezekiah Smith, Mée’qa$ Soto, Tulóvat Témanxwanvish, Kali Valenzuela, Atreyu Valenzuella, Tuupangawish Powkimawish Valenzuella, Ash-wut Vega and Kuláawut Vega.