Pekin Community High School officials, faculty and students gleamed with pride as they presented District 303’s numerous offerings both to the students and to the community.

Superintendent Danielle Owens said the event was the first ever State of the District.

“This is a culmination of the work we did last year with the student achievement committee,” said Owens. “We talked about better promoting the positives, better getting the word out to the community and strengthening our relationship with the community and letting people know what really goes on behind the closed doors here and invite more public in.

“We’ve done different things throughout the year. We’ve had some community tours, done some different things promotionally through the use of Facebook and use our social media better. So this is one more event we wanted to do, (we) kind of stole the idea from a couple of other districts that have tried this. We invited the community in for dinner, of course, with culinary arts. We’ve got an advantage here because we can offer a lot of things in one night and it’s all student based from dinner to background music to introducing our promotional video and the kids helped with that also.”

Approximately 220 community members, not including staff and students, attended the event Monday evening where culinary arts students presented a dinner of chicken, rice, mixed vegetables, rolls and salad. The entertainment was provided by the PCHS Concert Choir and Orchestra. Deverman Advertising President Jim Deverman produced a video telling of the many positives of PCHS using students to help with some of the work. The video was presented at the event.

Owens said the best time of the night was the breakout sessions when the students and staff talked about some of the new things the district has taken on over the past few years. The district started a seven period day, a one booster club approach for fundraising for all sports and activities, purchased more Chrome Books so that next year every student will have one of their own and other new developments.

“Surveys were overwhelmingly positive,” said Owens. “(Community members) loved getting to hear from the students at the break-out sessions and loved the video.

The students attending the event showed true pride in the school and their ability to take part in showcasing what PCHS has to offer. 

Graphic Communications II student Catherine Bozarth, 17, a senior from Pekin, helped film the event for the district’s website and shot photos of the event for the upcoming yearbook. She hopes to open her own graphic communications business.

“I really like it because of the people you get to meet while you’re doing it,” said Bozarth of her video and photo work. “I think it’s really cool because a part of me gets to stay behind in the school for a very long time.

“I designed a lot of the posters you see, so I know those will stick around for a while. And I know that some of the kids have T-shirts with my designs on it. I like seeing those in public. It’s just so cool. It’s an amazing feeling — yeah, I made that.”

Jade Wage, 17, a senior from Pekin in the culinary arts program, helped prepare and serve the meal at the event in the district’s kitchen/restaurant. The students in the Culinary Arts Program prepare lunch every Tuesday and Thursday for anyone to enjoy — another community service. Lunch is $5.

“It gives me lots of responsibility and makes me feel more like an adult,” said Wage. “I can meet a lot of new people, and I also really enjoy cooking, so it’s like two in one — meeting more people and cooking.”

Culinary Arts Instructor Billie Cassidy said she asked her students for volunteers for the event, “I had a ton of volunteers. They were anxious to show off what they can do. They went the extra mile to make sure the desserts are gorgeous and all the food was prepared. It’s been a major event for us, so it’s nice to have the community support our programs get so they can see this side of a large catering event.”