In the pre-dawn hours Wednesday, students gathered around flag poles at schools across the nation for the 20th annual See You at the Pole. The tradition started in Texas as a student-initiated prayer meeting that took hold in schools where participants encouraged each other to pray for community, local leaders and city, state and national governments, according to the See You at the Pole website, www.syatp.com. The event is every Sept. 22.
At First Presbyterian Christian Academy, sleepy-eyed students shuffled into the cafeteria around 7 a.m. for an opening prayer and a hot breakfast.
Headmaster Amy Swindell read the event’s history while students and county officials dined on fruit salad, biscuits, sausage, bacon and scrambled eggs.
The idea to coordinate prayer meetings around the nation originated at a youth conference in Colorado and attendees brought the concept back to other states.
FPCA student council president Brandon Standard, who said prayer is a personal thing for him, was excited to be a small part of a worldwide event.
“I just think it’s amazing because not only is our school participating at the pole, but all other schools around the nation are doing it at the same time,” Standard said.
The theme for this year’s See You at the Pole was “reveal” and participants were encouraged to read Matthew 6:9-13, also known as The Lord’s Prayer.
Area officials and government leaders, including newly elected Hinesville City Councilman Jason Floyd, put in appearances.
Eddie Walden, vice chairman of the Liberty County Commission, spoke briefly about his support for the program.
“It is a pleasure to be involved in this,” Walden said to the group of about 50 students. “Prayer is a very important part of my family’s everyday life.”
He also told participants the commission prays before meetings to receive direction and guidance to make the best choices for the county. He said he often used to wonder whether God answers prayers and found out that, in fact, He does. “It took me many years to realize ‘no’ is an answer, too,” Walden said.
After Walden spoke, Swindell recognized other dignitaries who rose early to pray and visit with students over breakfast. She closed her speech by reminding students of the significance of the event and the leadership involved.
“See You at the Pole is student led,” she emphasized before guiding students and staff outside to the front of the school.
Standard, the student leader of the ceremony, said in times of turbulence, he often turns to prayer as a comfort. “Personally, prayer is everything,” he said. “It helps me in times of need, times of happiness.”
Students of all ages gathered just after daybreak Wednesday at Long County High School to pray for their community, local leaders and city, state and national governments as part of the See You at the Pole tradition.
The event started with an opening prayer at 7 a.m. and the crowd broke into small groups to pray together.
“All of us coming out here shows a unity among everyone. When you walk around the school and you see someone who was out here, you know that they are someone you can talk to and someone that can relate to you,” LCHS senior Michelle Golden said.
Junior Ashlyn Snell agreed. “Coming out here lets everyone know that you have the courage to show you are a Christian,” she said. “It also lets other students know that if they have any questions about being a Christian, they know who they can talk to.”
More than 75 people met at the pole Wednesday. Most were students, but many adults also participated.
Rye Patch resident Northern Anderson said, “We don’t have prayer in the schools no more, and the kids need all the support they can get. Them seeing grown folks out here with them will hopefully give them more courage, and know that they’re not alone.”
The Rev. Michael Carden of Calvary Baptist Church in Ludowici was happy to see young people openly sharing their faith. “Seeing all of these kids out here is a good witness in the school system. It also shows that even though we all may go to different churches, we’re unified in the body of Christ,” he said.
“See You at the Pole,” now a 20-year tradition, is held all over the world.
Ludowici First Baptist Youth Pastor Eric Sizemore, who organized this year’s gathering, said, “Today was a good day. It showed that these kids aren’t afraid to show their faith and that they are united in their message.”