By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
VOLUSIA - While they can't pray in class, students throughout Volusia County can pray at school if they participate in See You At The Pole before school on Wednesday, Sept. 26.
"For me, it's the chance to be able to meet with other believers and Christians on your campus you didn't know before," Kayla Delay said.
Kayla is a student at Mainland High, and a member of its Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
See You At The Pole Global Day of Student Prayer started in 1990 with a small group of Texas students. According to the National Network of Youth Ministries, which sponsors the event, millions of students across America and in other nations now participate in the annual prayer event. It's on the fourth Wednesday in September. Like their peers throughout the country, students in Volusia will gather at their schools' flagpoles before school to pray.
"We're encouraging our students to go to the pole and pray for their country and their friends," the Rev. Jay Gibson, youth pastor at First Baptist Church of Daytona Beach, said.
Rev. Gibson said it's impossible to know how many students will participate in See You At The Pole. He said it's loosely organized and, of course, any student who wishes to participate can, since it's a student initiated and led event.
According to a 2010 Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey, many Americans mistakenly believe the Constitution, or Supreme Court decisions, forbid any prayer or other religious activities on public-school campuses. What the Supreme Court said in its Engle v. Vitale and Abington School District v. Schempp decisions is that no government body can mandate students or teachers to pray.
Student-led voluntary prayer or other religion-based activities are a much different matter. While See You at the Pole is Christian-based, student-led initiatives are open to all religions.
"That's absolutely protected by the Constitution," Rev. Gibson said. "Students need to know it's a Constitutional right to practice one's faith (on campus) and do so without fear of punishment."
Kayla said she's participated in See You At The Pole since the sixth grade. Her mother, Gloria Delay, said her daughter youth always has stories about it when she gets home.
"Every year there's always an excitement they come home with," she said. "They try to carry that through the year."
The high-school junior said that in addition to helping her meet fellow Christians, the annual prayer event gives her opportunities to comfortably share her faith with others.
"There was a time in middle school, my eighth-grade year, we'd prayed in a courtyard," she said. "A fellow student stopped by and asked why I was praying, why were we gathered there. He started to ask questions about Jesus."
Questions she was thrilled to answer.
Rev. Gibson, who's served at First Baptist for almost five years, said students sometimes take the one-day See You At The Pole event and turn it into regular prayer meetings. He said that happened a few years ago at Spruce Creek High School.
"I have seen seasons where that event is continued, kind of a daily or weekly meeting at the pole," he said.
Rev. Gibson said most participating students try to show up at their schools flagpoles about a half hour before classes start. He said students who wish to participate just need to show up.
For additional information about See You At The Pole, visit www.syatp.com.