The gymnasium at Watseka Community High School was packed the night of Nov. 15 as the Unit 9 Academic Foundation honored students for Pride Night.

“It was a great crowd,” said foundation co-chairman Rich Kingdon of the 18th annual event. The proceeds from the evening also go to help the students in another way – raising funds that go toward foundation projects in the district.

Students in grades five through 12 were honored for academic achievement. A new aspect of honoring students this year was recognizing students in kindergarten through fourth grades who had perfect attendance for the first quarter.

“That allows us to be able to include the younger kids,” he said.

The choirs sang for the audience. “They sounded great,” Kingdon said.

The bands also performed. “It sounds like they are ready to perform for basketball games,” he noted.

Many items were auctioned off during the silent auction. “We have a lot of businesses and individuals willing to help each year. We are very appreciative of that,” Kingdon said.

Another change this year was the mini cheer camp participants who performed with the high school cheerleaders at Pride Night. The mini cheer camp participants usually perform with the cheerleaders during a home football game, but Kingdon said they changed it this year to a home basketball game, which was well received.

The art work of students in teacher Kay Devine’s classes was also on display. Kingdon noted that students worked hard on their artwork this year.

The academic foundation puts the funds toward a number of projects in the district.

An ongoing one is the art program, which enhances art instruction for students at Nettie Davis and Wanda Kendall schools. That program gives them added instruction they might not otherwise get, he said.

One of the biggest projects the foundation has done of late is funding the new computer lab at the high school. Technology has been a key focus of the foundation for many years. Through the years, ChromeBooks, Smart Boards and other technology has been added in the district with the help of the foundation.

The foundation also funds other smaller projects in the district as needed. Kingdon said the foundation members make sure the district administrators know to communicate with them if there are items needed.

While Pride Night is a big fundraiser for the foundation, the organization will take donations throughout the year. They are working on streamlining the process. A new Facebook page and new website will give the foundation more exposure, he said, and the website will feature a section that allows people to make a donation online. The website and Facebook page are up and running, he said, and the online donation process will be soon.

Kingdon said the foundation appreciates the support it gets and is also happy to be able to honor the students for their hard work. The attendance at Pride Night was terrific. “It’s one of the best turnouts we’ve had.”