Soboba celebrates with sweets and hearts


Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians | Contributed

Valentine’s Day brought out lots of pink and red hearts throughout the Soboba Indian Reservation as preschoolers to teenagers celebrated the extra sweet holiday on Feb. 14.

Children from three through six years old spent the morning sharing valentines with their Soboba Tribal Preschool classmates, making food crafts and other activities. Preschool teacher Lenora “Ponie” Mojado and Instructional Aide Alaina Adkins sent each student home with a goodie bag filled with candy and other treats and fun glasses to wear. It also held a photo of the child in a frame made from popsicle sticks for them to give to their parents as a V-Day gift.

Just as in the preschool class, pre-K students in Ana Garcia’s class thanked each peer who added valentines to their decorated collection bags. There were many treats waiting for them to enjoy after the exchange was finished. The classroom billboard, letting them know that “Pre-K is Sweet,” was decorated with oversized cupcake cutouts colored by the mostly 4-year-old students.

Kindergartners threaded pink, red and clear beads onto some fishing line to make a festive necklace while soft music played in the background. Many came dressed in tops and dresses that reflected their love for the day of love. They also had a valentine exchange with their peers and took part in a heart-themed science experiment led by teacher Laura Aldrete, who sported a purple shirt that read: “My class is full of sweethearts.”

Each of three group tables had a clear plastic cup of water, soda and vinegar. Each child had a candy conversation heart to place into the cup after making a prediction if the heart would float or sink. Hearts sank in all three liquids and students were asked to raise their hands to guess why they thought it reacted that way. Guesses included that the candy was too heavy or too hard or it didn’t have enough air. After a few minutes, the hearts inside the cup containing soda began to float to the top, delighting and surprising everyone.

The children turned large white shopping bags into “Love Bugs” using lots of brightly colored construction paper pieces to create a heart shaped face and accordion-style legs and arms. Instructional Aide Mayra Campos stayed busy filling them with take-home treats and gifts for parents, such as framed photos of their children made with candy conversation hearts with a pipe-cleaner hanger.

Soboba Parks & Recreation hosted Youth Night on Feb. 14, which offered a cooking lesson centered around Valentine’s Day. The twice a week program is offered to Tribal members ranging in age from 10-17 through May 1. They regularly enjoy nature activities, movie nights, arts and crafts, sports days and more from 5-7 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays.

This evening found the group learning how to make cereal bar treats, following an eight-step recipe with assistance from recreational aides Belle Macatubal, Mike Durett and Evelyn Duran. Aides rotated between helping them melt marshmallows on a hot pad, offering decorating tips with supplies provided and answering questions. They had an option of decorating their cooled treats after forming them into a heart, star or other shape using oversized cookie cutters. Some chose to eat them there while others packaged them in a baggie with red hearts to take it home. Once they learned exactly how to make one, several went back for seconds, either to eat or take home.

Macatubal has been with the department for about three years and said this season of Youth Nights, which began Jan. 15 has been going well. “We’re seeing a lot of new faces, which is great,” she said. Duran said she likes the program because she likes being involved with the kids. “I have fun talking to them and having that friendship with them is beautiful,” she said.

Parks and Recreation Activities Director Jennifer Garcia said an upcoming project will be having the youths make vision boards. “They will think about their goals in life and what they want to accomplish,” she said. Also in the near future will be a movie night, several sports nights and learning how to make slime and playdough.

With a wide age range, staff work hard to find things that will engage all who attend. The older kids just like to hang out with each other, so they are usually satisfied with whatever is presented.

Activity ideas come from asking the youths what they would like to do or from suggestions that they make. The fall season of Youth Nights included making Indian frybread and noodles from scratch which they all seemed to like doing. Irene Cervantes, 13, said she enjoys Youth Nights because they are “very interactive and a lot of fun.”

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