Taking steps to be cognizant of the continuing pandemic concerns while allowing families to celebrate Thanksgiving as it should be led Soboba Tribal Preschool Director Donovan Post to host three days of luncheons at the Soboba Sports Complex Nov. 15-17.

Kindergarten students met family members at the Soboba Sports Complex on the first day, Pre-K boys and girls celebrated second and the final day was reserved for the Preschool and Jr. Preschool kids and their family members.

The Nevarez family enjoy a Thanksgiving luncheon at the Soboba Sports Complex, courtesy of the Soboba Tribal Preschool. Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Each family got a table with at least six chairs to enjoy the individually boxed turkey lunch with all the fixings. Tables filled with sweet treats such as pumpkin pies, cookies and cupcakes were available for anyone that wanted to top off their filling meal.

“We set up 25 tables about 10-feet apart each day, for safety reasons,” Post said. “We went with pre-packaged meals instead of a buffet that included everything, right down to the cranberry sauce.”

The Bentiste brothers celebrate Thanksgiving with their parents and grandmother, Yolanda Valdez, during the Soboba Tribal Preschool luncheon on Nov. 16. Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Aside from the tasty lunch and spending time together, the students treated guests to seasonal songs they had learned. On Nov. 16, the pre-kindergartners sang, “Thanksgiving Time is Here,” “Hello, Mr. Turkey, How Are You?” and more. The songs incorporated their classroom lessons about fall colors of red, yellow and brown. Each of the children had made a turkey hat in class and many wore them to the event. They also created a colorful turkey art project using their own handprint. Photo opportunities were offered with a fall-themed background set up in the lobby.

The Nevarez family got to enjoy the fun twice as five-year-old Charlie Mae Hunter had her special day on Nov. 16 and her sister, Penny Jo Hunter, 3, was invited the next day. Charlie Mae’s favorite part of the day was singing. Their mother, Emma Nevarez, said last year she had three children attending the preschool but her eldest daughter, Betsy Lou, graduated from kindergarten in June.

Kindergarten students from Soboba Tribal Preschool have fun during a Thanksgiving celebration on Nov. 15. Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

“I love our preschool,” Emma said. “I think the staff is great; they always go over and beyond.”

The girls’ grandfather, Mike Nevarez, said. “I love that in these times when we still need to be able to celebrate, we are given this opportunity to do so. It was also nice being served lunch by the preschool’s director, Mr. Post.” Brooklyn Goseyun, 5, started at the school this year. Her mom, Jaymie, said she loves the school because it’s culturally appropriate and teaches the students many different things. “The events they plan are good for the kids,” she said.

Yolanda Valdez was enjoying spending time with her grandsons. Luciano Marquez, 5 is a pre-kindergartner and his four-year-old brother Eric was set to attend the event the next day. Younger brother, Malakai, 2, hasn’t started at the preschool yet.

Wayne Garcia attends the Soboba Tribal Preschool Thanksgiving luncheon with his granddaughter, Clover Swan, during the Preschool and Jr. Preschool celebration on Nov. 17. Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

Their mother, Daylena Bentiste, said she likes the teachers and the fact the school helps the kids get involved with their tribe. “They need to know about their heritage, it’s important for them to know,” she said. Bentiste said she knew the words to all the songs her children performed because the boys practiced all the time at home. She said they enjoyed that part the most.

Jena Davis, 4, has been at the preschool for two years. Her mother, Julie Resvaloso, said attending class online during the pandemic was difficult and this is her daughter’s first year of physically being in a classroom. “I’m always excited for her school events,” she said. “And I thought the food was delicious, especially the turkey.” Students will be out of school an entire week for the Thanksgiving holiday and will get a two-week break starting on Dec. 20. The school is planning a similar three-day Christmas celebration for its 65 students prior to their winter vacation.

Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

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