Local students observe See You at the Pole dayPublished 1:25am Saturday, September 29, 2012
Prayer in school may be illegal in the United States, but prayer at school continues in 2012 through student-led functions like Wednesday’s See You at the Pole event.
Although the annual practice is certainly not school policy in Escambia County Alabama or Florida, the event continued this year on both sides of the state line as students at both Perdido Elementary/Middle School, Escambia Academy and Northview High School organized meetings, which were designed to bring students together to pray before classes begin around the schools’ flag poles.
Gerri McDonald, a teacher at Perdido’s school, said this year’s event was a huge success and was coordinated entirely by the students.
“Over 75 students gathered before school to participate in this annual observance, which was organized by the Christian Club and led by seventh grader Allie Flowers,” McDonald said. “Members of the Christian Club selected the music, adapted the scripts for the two dramas that they had seen done at their churches, assigned parts and rehearsed for the event. The kids did a great job organizing and presenting this observance.”
At Northview High School, students Ashton Gibbs and Alison Bardin were responsible for continuing the Christian-based tradition this year.
“See You at the Pole was an extremely successful occasion Wednesday morning,” Gibbs said. “We had an average of 90 people attend. More came as buses came in and we had two speakers, (including) Bro. Ted Bridges.”
Gibbs said organizing the event was not a huge undertaking, but did require the help of several friends and family members.
“Planning the event really wasn’t too difficult,” she said. “Ted is my cousin, and he usually leads the group in a message every year. I led the worship music along with my friend, Alison Bardin. We started the service at around 7:45 a.m. with three worship songs and Alison read scripture out of Ephesians.”
Gibbs said students’ initial reactions were hard to gage, but added she believes the morning meeting touched the crowd.
“At first, you could tell that people were uneasy as how they should act, but as words were said and God’s presence was felt, things definitely took a turn. People were in tears, hugging each other, praying with each other and it was literally one of the greatest experiences at Northview High School. Many people said they were tired of being ‘lukewarm Christians’ and rededicated their lives to Christ.”
Gibbs added the Christian students at Northview plan to do more throughout the school year to continue getting their message across to the student body.
“We have started having FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) meetings every single Thursday instead of two times a month, and we plan on doing other student-led events such as praying on the football field regularly and having more speakers attend our meetings.”
This year’s See You at the Pole event has special significance to many Christian students and faculty after nearby Flomaton High School was reprimanded earlier in the school year for holding prayers before football games and other events over the stadium’s loudspeakers. Following a complaint, the Escambia County Board of Education sent an official reminder to FHS, outlining that only student-led religious practices are permissible. Students at FHS reacted to the notification with several student-led prayers at sporting events in the weeks following the county’s reprimand.
At Escambia Academy, a private school out of the reach of county and state religous sanctions, Headmaster Betty Warren said her students were also present for the event.
“All of our students attended,” Warren said. “We replaced our normal chapel time with it. and Ron Starns, the youth pastor at First Assembly of God led it. But we also had a lot of kids that were volunteering and wanted to help out with it.”
See You at the Pole began in 1990 as a grass roots movement with ten students praying at their school. Twenty years later, millions pray on their campuses on the fourth Wednesday in September.