◆ By Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

The first day of school at the Soboba Tribal Preschool and Noli Indian School was Aug. 4. Donovan Post, who is director for the preschool and principal for the 6-12 grade school on the Soboba Indian Reservation, joined staff to welcome students back to the campuses.

Wayne Nelson performed a blessing in the Luiseño language at both locations, starting with the preschool at 7:45 a.m. Parents and their young children gathered in the multipurpose room where they were invited to enjoy some breakfast items with the kids before taking them to their assigned classrooms. The preschool provides instruction for ages 2 through kindergarten.

Scarlett Valenzuella arrived with her 5-year-old son, River. She said all three of her children have attended the preschool and River was in its Pre-K classroom last year.

“I’m so grateful for this school,” Scarlett said. “I can’t imagine having my kids go anywhere else.”

At Noli, students, teachers, administrators and staff members gathered in the common area before the first bell rang to receive the blessing and a smudging with white sage from Noli School Board President Antonia Briones-Venegas and Culture Department Coordinator/Instructor Tashina Miranda Ornelas.

“We are honored to serve you as always,” Post told the students. Briones-Venegas encouraged the students, “If you see unfamiliar faces, welcome them to the school and for those you already know, welcome them back.”

On Saturday, Aug. 6, Soboba Parks and Recreation hosted its annual Summer Bash. The pool was open for swimming and upbeat tunes from DJ Mike Nevarez helped those who were outdoors stay cool from the day’s heat. There were also several inflatable water slides set up on one of the baseball fields with shady areas around the diamond for family members to picnic and visit while the young ones played.

Inside the Sports Complex gymnasium, esports experts from The Redination had set up several stations to engage guests in video game tournaments playing Call of Duty and Fortnite in various “Battle Royale” competitions.

The facility’s cardio room was transformed to offer drone flying and go-cart riding. Overseeing the room’s activities was FPV Drone expert Christopher Davis who started his career in the U.S. Navy. His goal is to use drones and tech to improve future generations. He likes to share his knowledge with others to show them how to build and maintain their own drones.

“Having these toys available are a way to get kids interested – we use the carts and drones as learning tools,” Davis said, adding that the go-carts utilize the popular motorsports trend of drifting and helps riders learn about momentum and control. “We exist to educate.”

Margarita Santos, Executive Director of the Electric Vehicle Learning Center in San Marcos, shared some simple STEM projects that engaged guests such as building a simple circuit flashlight.

So even though the participants were having fun throughout the air-conditioned facility, they were also learning lessons that will hopefully shape future endeavors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

All guests were offered a lunch of hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and sodas. Bags of popcorn and fresh fruit were also available. The Soboba Elders set up a taco cart from 3 to 5 to keep everyone from getting hungry at the all-day event.

“We would like to thank Noli, the Soboba Elders and Soboba TANF for their volunteers and for collaborating with us on this year’s Summer Bash,” Activities Director Jennifer Garcia said.

Post, who was at the event with his children, was able to encourage 14 students from Noli to attend the event to learn more about esports and potential careers in the field.

Soboba Parks & Recreation Director Andy Silvas explained each station to guests as they arrived to make sure they took advantage of all the fun things that were available for kids of all ages.