Annual event celebrates outstanding students ◆ By Mike Hiles
Middle- and high-school students and recent graduates were honored at the annual Academic Achievement Awards Ceremony, hosted by the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians Tribal Council. With a new school year on the horizon, a celebration brunch was held at The Country Club of Soboba Springs on July 28 to recognize outstanding tribal youth from the 2017-2018 academic year.
Silver Achievement honors went to 18 students who earned a grade point average of 3.0-3.4. Gold Achievement level for a GPA of 3.5-3.9 was reached by 13 and Platinum Achievement with a GPA of 4.0 and above was attained by five students. Of the 39 high school graduates recognized at the ceremony, most of them are furthering their education by going to college or trade school.
"This event shows our appreciation for the hard work these students have put in during the entire school year," Soboba Tribal Council Chairman Scott Cozart said. "Our (tribal) youth is the reason we are doing all of this – hopefully they will carry on the tradition."
In his welcome message, Cozart acknowledged the rest of the Tribal Council: Vice Chairman Isaiah Vivanco, Secretary Monica Herrera, Treasurer Kelli Hurtado and Sergeant-at-Arms Rose Salgado.
"We also want to acknowledge all the elders and family members that are here today supporting the success of our tribal youth," Cozart said. "These youth 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."
Isaiah Vivanco said he hopes the recognition event inspires youth to go forward and take advantage of the higher education program offered by the tribe and become more productive in the community.
"I think this is a good community event for us to come together and celebrate," Monica Herrera said. "It lets (the youth) know that it's not just their families that stand behind them to encourage and support them but it is the whole tribe. Everybody cares – everybody is watching out for them. We feel so blessed to be able to do something like this."
A raffle was held for the youth that attended and the prizes were things they would enjoy such as iTunes gift cards, video game consoles, wireless headphones and Apple watches. The brunch included made-to-order omelets, a pasta station, taco bar, salad bar and pastries. Sweet table centerpieces were created from movie theater boxed candies and colorful plastic slinkys and the person with a "winner" sign under their chair seat was able to take it home.
Silver award recipients of a red and black braided lei, a crystal trophy and certificate for "Outstanding Achievement" were Ajay Michael Arrietta Parcero, Su'la Kihuu'samal Arviso, Avelaka Bishop, Iyana Briones, Jimmy Angelo Briones, Michael Briones, Roxanne Star Castello, Shaleen Marie Castello, Eliana Duro, Crystal Gonzalez, Benny Helms IV, Erika Modesto, Evelyn Modesto, Ciara Ramos, Jeremiah Ramos, Soowut Rodriguez, Daniel Vazquez and Jericho Vivanco.
Gold award recipients of a lei, crystal trophy and a "Superior Achievement" certificate were Jayden A. Basquez, Yawaywish Briones, Jasmine Garcia, Dakota Helms, Jayden Helms, Loovi Herrera, Byrie Lindsey, Nathan Miranda, Lawrence Modesto III, Tishmanim Rhodes, Luisa Rivera, Tanya Rivera and Autumn Vivanco.
Platinum award recipients of a lei, crystal trophy and a certificate of "Academic Excellence" were Kaya Ciccone Cozart, Jeremy Knutzen, Shayla Lara, Dilhitchalakai Modesto and Riley Marie Ward.
Graduates – many already honored in previous categories – were presented with a lei, an etched pottery plate handmade by Navajo artist Harrison Tom of Arizona, a Pendleton blanket and a certificate of recognition. They were Ajay Michael Arrietta Parcero, Juliana Briones, Eric J. Diaz, Jasmine Garcia, Wayne Garcia, Aubrey Gilmore, Aiyana Hernandez, Benny Helms IV, Dakota Helms, Jayden Helms, Natasha Hurtado, Jeremy Knutzen, Shayla Lara, Ariah Leimas, Madison Lindsey, Junior Medina, Julianna Merchant, Jeremiah Meza, Nathan Miranda, Evelyn Modesto, Matthew Morreo, Gwyneth Nevarez, Jesse Ortega, Jesse Placencia, Donald Resvaloso III, Ethan Resvaloso-Stoddard, Tukwut Rodriguez, Jasmine Romero, Ebony Sanchez-Duro, Desiree Smestad, Tehya Soza, Rose Soza-Gonzales, Jeanette Valenzuella, Gilbert Vallejo, Christobal Vallez III, Matthew Vigil, Autumn Vivanco, Jericho Vivanco and Emma Wyant.
In closing, Vivanco thanked all involved who helped make the event such a success.
"Good luck to our recent graduates as they begin the next step of their lives," he said. "And good luck to the junior high and high school students who will be returning this fall. I hope to see you all again next year to celebrate your accomplishments."