(Unique education)

St. Jude Mission School is a nonprofit Catholic elementary school serving the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians and adjacent communities since 2002. Sharing its grounds with the St. Joseph Mission Church, which has been serving its congregation for more than 100 years, the school offers more than the traditional 3Rs of education.

Expanding to include one grade each year since it opened, St. Jude now offers classes from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. Small class sizes offer students a chance to receive individualized assistance when and where needed.

Administrator Donna Ferry has been a Catholic school teacher for more than 20 years. She said St. Jude offers students small group instruction and one-on-one tutoring. The primary grades also do learning centers. Students are taught religion every day and go to Mass as a school community every week.

“Our students participate in the school Mass as readers and altar servers,” Ferry said.

Maleta Lolesio has taught at the school for seven years and teaches first through third grades. She said she chose to teach at a Catholic school rather than a charter or public school because of her background in the church.

“I love being able to educate children as well as teach them the word of God,” Lolesio said. “I love St. Jude for many reasons, including the family environment we have built as a staff and with the students, the culture, and because our curriculum is very academic-based and challenging.”

The school’s goal is to provide quality education in a loving and caring atmosphere, which will help students reach their full potential. This includes a strong general education with a true sense of God and an appreciation for the children’s Indian heritage and culture.

Deacon Andrew Orosco has served the Native American Ministry of the Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino, which includes the counties of Riverside and San Bernardino and consists of six Mission Churches within the diocese. St. Joseph Church is located on the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians Reservation and adjacent to the St. Jude Mission School. Orosco is a four-year member of the St. Jude School Board and Chairperson of the Board for three years.

“I am involved because I requested, and Bishop Gerald Barnes granted my request, to serve in the Native American Ministry which encompasses all six Native Mission Churches and Institutions which includes St. Jude Mission School,” he said. “The School Board is responsible for the adherence and promotion of the Mission School, which is to provide a quality Catholic education to Native students with an emphasis on local Native culture, language and tradition.”

The school’s educational values that it strives to pass onto the children are knowledge and a personal love of God, love of learning, awareness of those less fortunate, building relationships based on respect and concern for others, personal development of each child, a strong sense of family and community, reverence for all of Creation and respect and love for Indian culture.

“As the only Catholic Mission school located on an Indian Reservation in the Diocese, we of the School Board and administrators serve the Native community in many ways,” Orosco explained. “Educationally, by teaching the importance of the basics: reading, writing and arithmetic; spiritually, by recognizing our connectedness to all Creation through a relationship with our Creator and most of all appreciation of the beauty of our local Native culture, history and contributions.”

He said the school is self-supporting but that its tuition costs are on the low side based on what other parochial schools in the local area charge. Also, due to the low number of students through the years, the small school has been mostly subsidized by very generous donors and grants awarded by the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions.

“Without these gracious stakeholders, the school would not exist,” Orosco said. “We would like to gratefully thank the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians Tribal Council who continually allows us the opportunity to operate this school on their sovereign lands together with the Diocese of San Bernardino who award our students with scholarship grants and provides our students with iPads for their use at the school.”

During the recent COVID-19 closures, the personal computers have been very beneficial. The School Board’s nine members support the school through hosting of various fundraisers that allow everyone to invest in the future of its students by providing important opportunities that promote the values that are important to our society today.

For more information about St. Jude Mission School at 23600 Soboba Road in San Jacinto, please call 951-654-7899 or 951-487-8822 or send an email to

-Diane A. Rhodes

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