Noli Indian School Prepares Students for a Bright Future

Justin Subith and Micah Knox talk to students visiting the Soboba Tribal Environmental Department table at a recent College and Career Fair, hosted by Noli Indian School. | Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians | Contributed

The administration and staff at Noli Indian School on the Soboba Indian Reservation know that classroom learning is just one way to prepare students for life beyond high school. Serving grades 6-12, the school provides career and college readiness opportunities for all grade levels.

Aside from its strong and popular AVID program, the school recently hosted a career and college fair and conducted mock employment interviews with the help of community members, some who returned to critique mandatory Senior Projects.

“I believe it is never too early to introduce students of all ages to potential careers. It is important to guide the students to begin thinking about their future endeavors. Preparation is the key,” Academic Coordinator Liz LaCella said. “In the 15 years that I have worked at Noli, I have seen the progression of turning the campus from a credit recovery to a college and career-going atmosphere. We still have plenty of work ahead of us, but I am proud of the forward moving progression this campus has developed.”

This marks the second time that Education Tech Desiree Cosby has hosted a College and Career Fair “to inform and influence tomorrow’s workforce.” She was pleased with the turnout by local businesses and nonprofits that highlighted a variety of occupations as well as the presence of representatives from nearby colleges and trade schools.

Approximately 105 Noli students participated in the voluntary event and Karlene Clifford brought about 20 of her Sherman Indian High School students from Riverside to the April 6 event at the Soboba Sports Complex gymnasium.

“The goal was to re-establish contact with as many 2019 College and Career Fair vendor attendees as possible,” Cosby said. “Also, to restore some degree of normalcy in terms of student expectations for campus traditions. It’s great to get back to in-person instruction but Noli students have missed out on so many school events due to COVID.”

Soboba Casino Resort had a strong presence with representatives available to talk about anything from marketing and IT operations to golf course maintenance.

SoCal Edison employees provided a demonstration of how power lines work and let students know about the wide variety of occupations offered there.

Local entrepreneurs, such as locksmith Craig Cline and Noli alumnus Anthony Trujillo with Stylish Culture, appealed to those looking to go into business for themselves one day. Catherine “Cat” Modesto is an instructor at Coastline Beauty College who also has her own beauty business, HU$TLE & GLOW. Peyton Smith operates his own music company and attracted a constant stream of students to his table where he demonstrated how he creates beats using his laptop computer.

Military careers were explained by U.S. Navy recruiters and two members of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department shared their career experiences.

The FAB School table was a popular destination where Outreach Coordinator Victor Angon explained the hands-on training programs offered in Fundamentals of Fabrication, Digital Design and Manufacturing and Advanced Composites and Technologies.

Soboba Public Works, Administration and Tribal Environmental Department were on hand to answer any and all questions about their respective areas and what is offered there. Soboba Fire came during lunchtime, parking an engine at the complex’s parking lot that is shared with the school, so students could talk to them about all they do.

Robert and Hannah Young from Inland Memorial Harford Chapel fielded lots of questions about working at a funeral home and what it entails. Trade schools for truck driving, nursing and culinary training were also represented.

Mt. San Jacinto College Outreach Specialist Beth Bowles said most students were curious about tuition costs and she was able to share financial aid information with them. She added that many were fascinated to learn they might only have to attend classes a couple days a week, depending on their educational goals, and that with more than one campus, the college is conveniently located.

Mario Zaragoza-Castellano is a Noli Indian School graduate and is now involved with UCR’s Native American Student Programs. University of Redlands student Norbit Arres, also a Noli grad, said the school’s preparation really helped him a lot when he was uncertain about attending college.

Faith Vega and Angelo Leivas, both juniors at Noli, said the AVID program has helped them with preparing for college but were interested in exploring career opportunities during the fair. Faith said her mother is a registered nurse and if she follows in that direction, she might look for something in the mental health field. Angelo is very mechanically inclined and builds his own bikes to ride for fun.

LaCella took over the ninth and tenth grade honors and ninth grade English classes in 2016. This is when an Interview Skills Day for freshmen and sophomores was incorporated.

“Many of the students discussed how they were going to interview for jobs through the TANF program, so I felt it was necessary to establish a mock interview day at the school,” she said. “It stuck and we’ve been doing it for many years. With the help of many supporters, it has been a successful event.”

This year’s interviewers included Mountain View High School Intern Counselor Cassandra Aldana, EMWD Public Affairs Specialist II Ailene Earl, MSJC Job Developer/CalWORKS Timmy Diaz and Riverside-San Bernardino Counties Indian Health Inc. Prevention Educator Vanessa Brierty.

About 20 students participated in the April 8 one-on-one mock interviews, either in person or via Zoom. The premise, on which they based their resume and answers, was to fill a job in Outside Services at the Soboba Springs Golf Course. A job description with the duties and responsibilities expected of the applicant was supplied to the interviewers who then rated each one based on a rubric that covered the categories of attire, preparedness, clear speaking, posture and eye contact. They could get anywhere from 10 to 25 points per category for 100 possible total points if they were dressed professionally, were completely prepared and obviously rehearsed, spoke clearly and distinctly without mispronouncing any words, sat up straight looking relaxed and confident and established eye contact during the interview.

“Several of the students I interviewed seemed very comfortable talking about themselves,” Aldana said. “A lot of their volunteer experience came out, which was great to hear.”

She said offering this type of experience and exposure is wonderful for the students because sometimes there is too much focus on going to college. Talking to students about their futures and making sure there is a place that will help prepare them for a job is critical.

Noli English teacher Daniel Alarcon oversaw this year’s senior projects, which took place over a two-day period, April 28 and 29. A dozen students chose a topic to research and put together a 10-page argument paper about it. The presentation of that topic counts for 50% of their grade, making them more accountable.

“We are not grading their ideas but rather the ability to make an argument that will change the world on a subject that matters in their community or the world,” Alarcon said. “I had to learn to be a little more hands-off with their topics because I want their passion and interest to come through.”

He said the exercise gives students the skills they will need for any English 101 class they take in college. Five panel members critiqued each presentation based on whether they had enough slides in their presentations and transitioned the information accordingly, if they were dressed appropriately, if the presentation was at least 30 minutes long including question-and-answer time with the audience and other criteria about delivery, content, organization and enthusiasm.

Topics ran the gamut, including climate change, cults, serial killers, police brutality, suicide, Western beauty standards, ethics in sports and pollution. Each senior was given a round of applause at the end of their presentation.

“I feel it takes a village,” LaCella said. “Noli is a supportive crew, and they all know the importance of these events. They are always open to helping and supporting the cause. Many have shared that they feel these events help the students with their public speaking skills, which is a bonus in the classroom.”

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