At the most recent San Jacinto Unified School District’s board meeting on Feb. 10, the Board of Trustees and Superintendent David Pyle recognized the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians Tribal Council, Soboba Foundation, Tribal Executive Officer Steven Estrada and Sponsorship Coordinator Andrew Vallejos for their generous support of students, families, staff and community.
Some of their contributions were singled out by Carla Adame, Family & Community Engagement Specialist for the district. Soboba is a Platinum Sponsor of the Hemet/San Jacinto Student of the Month Program, provided 1,000 turkey dinners for district families at Thanksgiving and 1,000 toys from the Soboba Gives Back Toy Drive that prompted the annual community event of “Unstuff the Bus” at SJUSD’s warehouse.
Adame said the 350-plus families that benefited from Soboba’s “very generous contributions” greatly appreciated the assistance during the holidays. “And it’s not only the giving of the toys but what you do to go above and beyond,” she said to the Soboba representatives that attended the board meeting. “It’s all the extra things you do, like the fact that you guys come out and make Unstuff the Bus such a special time for our community.”
Additionally, community members that assisted with the Soboba Turkey Dinner Distribution, Unstuff the Bus and/or the Soboba Gives Back gift distribution to families were recognized for their volunteerism. Those individuals and groups were Boxing for Christ, Hemet-San Jacinto Chamber of Commerce, Retired RSO Captain Leonard Purvis, Riverside County Office of Education, San Jacinto City Manager and City Council members, San Jacinto Education Foundation and the Soboba Fire Department.
Soboba Tribal Council Chairman Isaiah Vivanco thanked the district for the recognition and said, “We’re just honored to be in a position where we can give back and support our local school district. Over the years we’ve built a great partnership with you and we look forward to many more years. It’s a great benefit to see all the work and effort you put into helping sculpt and mold these young minds and maybe our future leaders.”
Also noted was Soboba’s contribution to SJUSD’s Native American Parent Advisory Council. “Out of that has come great things for our students,” Adame said.
One of several dedicated parent advisory councils, NAPA was established in the 2017-2018 school year due to many parents of Native American students interested in forming a council to address the unique needs of their students.
“SJUSD was very supportive of increasing parent engagement and participation with our district,” Vince Record, SJUSD Native American Parent Advisory Council Facilitator, said. “The NAPA Council helped us write our first Title VI Indian Education Grant in 2018 that allowed us to hire Delia Vazquez as our Native American Student, Family and Community Liaison.”
The Native American Parent Advisory Council, is a dynamic group of students, educators, families and Native community members who come together to assist in improving cultural awareness amongst staff, students and the San Jacinto Valley, while ensuring that all Native students realize their full potential in academics and in life.
The Native American Parent Advisory Council’s mission is committed to ensuring that the Native American history, values and traditions are respected while engaging students, parents and staff in a variety of activities to expand and promote cultural awareness, self-identity and college/career readiness.
The Council, which meets at least three times per school year, attracts between 30 to 45 attendees at each meeting. Native American parents of students in all grade levels at all school sites are invited to attend; several school staff and administrators are also invited. The Title VI grant requires three officers that are Native American parents. They are Chairperson Geneva Mojado, Vice-Chairperson Alishia Falcon and Secretary Melissa Vera-Arviso.
“The Council gives the Native American parents a voice. A voice with SJUSD administration and staff,” Mojado, who also serves as Soboba Tribal Council Vice Chairwoman, said. “It gives the staff a better insight about Native American culture and student needs.”
She said the majority of concerns are heard and addressed. “For example, heading up the Four Directions Clubs at North Mountain Middle School and San Jacinto High School, parents asked for mentors and Native Challenge from Riverside San Bernardino County Indian Health Inc. assisted with the request through its Native STARS program.”
Record said there have been several successful outcomes from the NAPA Council so far including the Title VI grant that helps fund Native American Heritage activities. He said the district has been able to increase its number of services for Native American students including tutoring, mentoring, and social-emotional and academic counseling.
School engagement activities are supported through the Four Directions Club, which is headed by co-founder and president Su’la Arviso, a junior at San Jacinto High School. In celebration of Native American Heritage Month in November, the Four Directions Club sponsored a Native American Heritage Art and Essay contest. Winners received a $125 Hobby Lobby gift card provided by the Soboba Foundation. The club also invited Native American Bird Dancers to perform during lunch periods throughout November.
Su’la also presented a program update at the Feb. 9 NAPA meeting, held virtually. This was preceded by a Land Acknowledgement, or prayer, by North Mountain Middle School Four Directions Club member Raya Salgado.
Record said other important gains for SJUSD as a result of NAPA Council’s input has been the purchase of books by Native American authors sharing Native American culture that were distributed to all school libraries, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Soboba Foundation.
“The NAPA Council has helped create an increased awareness of the Native American culture in the San Jacinto Valley, and the many contributions of Native Americans throughout our local history,” Record said. “What I like best about working with the NAPA Council is their student-centered focus on helping each Native American student be successful academically and holistically. They want their Native American students to be proud of their heritage and be prepared to be successful leaders in our community.”
Mojado said, “Our goals are to increase parent participation and seek more resources for our Native American students. Also, to get more parents to enroll their students for the resources that the Title VI grant offers. Delia Vasquez, who works with the students, is a great advocate and passionate about the NA families and students. We definitely need to improve the attendance among our NA students. We are continuously brainstorming on how to improve absenteeism with all grades in the district.”
Record, who is also the Director of CTE and Special Programs for the District, acknowledges this goal and others. “Increasing college and career readiness and reducing chronic absenteeism are two areas that many of our students could use support in, but they are current focus areas of the NAPA Council for Native American students. An ongoing focus area is continuing to share Native American culture whenever possible.”
Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians