By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News
The Don Hatch Youth Center parking lot was shut down on the afternoon of August 24. At the center of the campus, surrounded by a dozen of smiling faces, a creature with white fur and a blue face happily danced to a feel-good set curated by local Mixmaster, DJ Monie.
You may ask why in the world the mythical legend known as the Yeti, a.k.a. the Abominable Snowman, was getting its grove on in near 80-degree weather. And the answer, of course, is to celebrate the Tulalip Education Division’s annual Back 2 School Party.
“I think today was awesome,” exclaimed young tribal member, Peyton Gobin. “I came down because I wanted to see my friends and my family. I’m going into the 7th grade. I’m excited and think the new school year will be really fun.”
The Yeti tagged along to the shindig with the Grove Street Church, whose membership volunteered to supervise the rides and attractions. In addition to the many volunteers, the church also donated two bouncy houses so the youth could get their jump on during the back-to-school bash.
To provide endless amounts of fun throughout the day, the Tulalip Education Division also enlisted the Reptile Girl, the Tulalip Police Department, the Tulalip Bay Fire Department, Paws With A Cause, Skate Like A Girl, Hatter Mike Balloon Twister, and QuakeHOLD!
Youth of all ages had a blast during the five-hour event while they visited all of the activity booths, rides, and petting zoo animals including alpacas, turtles, and alligators.
“I liked the lady with the whistles,” said Sophia Quimby. “Everyone’s been getting whistles from her, so I went up to her and she’s really nice. I got a whistle and also got a picture, and pencils from the fire department that I can take home. But my favorite part of the day was probably the pirate ship.”
Gia Joseph agreed, “Yes! The pirate ship was probably my favorite too. And I’m taking home a picture, a highlighter, and a coloring book.
“It’s a very exciting event,” Sophia added.
“It’s pretty much the best.” Gia concurred.
With painted faces and snow cones in hand, the kids of Tulalip met with their friends and relatives as they explored the youth campus, taking plenty of time to ride the Pirate’s Revenge carnival ride and joust against each other in a padded ring, American Gladiators style.
“Seeing all the interactions with the children, it’s the big start for the new school year,” said Tulalip BOD, Hazen Shopbell. “I like seeing them all having fun together. I think this is a wonderful event where everyone comes together to help support the kids. It’s a good way to prepare them for school, I try to make it every year with my children.”
Inside the gymnasium were rows upon rows of information and resource booths. The idea of bringing-in departments such as Tulalip Higher Education, the Homework Support Club, and Family Resources, as well as Marysville School District (MSD) representatives including faculty from Heritage High, Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary and the MSD Native American Liaisons, was for students and families to get acquainted with their teachers, counselors, and all those who they will be working with throughout the academic year.
“It’s important to celebrate back to school because our children need to see our excitement for learning,” expressed Tulalip Education Division Director, Jessica Bustad. “We want to thank all the volunteers, staff, vendors, MSD employees, and the Positive Youth Development team for providing the excitement of going back to school. It was great seeing the kids visit with their teachers, youth workers, and other organizations that serve them. It’s important for us to set that example for the kids. We want our kids to know that education is a priority to us, and we support them 100%. It’s been a long summer, so seeing all the smiling faces in one place is a good feeling. It’s nice to see the staff engaging and reuniting with their students.”
The Back 2 School Party was the perfect way to close out summer and celebrate new beginnings as the 2022-2023 school year quickly approaches.
“This event sends our kids back to school in a good way,” explained Tulalip Youth Advocate, Deyamonta Diaz. “It’s fun for the families to hang out, no stress, and meet with staff from their schools without the pressure of the school setting. We provide food so the families get to eat some good food and just enjoy the end of the summer before gearing up to get ready for school.”
Good luck to all the young scholars as they begin their new academic year!