WINNSBORO — Richard Winn students of all ages, as well as numerous staff members, chose to get up and head to school a little earlier than usual to take part in the annual See You at the Pole ( SYATP) event Wednesday.
SYATP is an annual gathering of Christian students of all ages at a flagpole in front of their local school for prayer, scripture-reading and hymn-singing, during the early morning before school starts. The American SYATP events occur on every fourth Wednesday of September.
The events began in 1990 in the United States and has grown by word of mouth, announcements at youth rallies and churches, and the Internet and now occurs internationally. In 2005, over two million students in the United States participated, as well as students in Canada, Germany, Japan, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Portugal and Scotland.
In the United States, school-sponsored prayers in public schools have been found unconstitutional, but prayers organized by students themselves are allowed and protected by free speech rights.
Pastors, teachers, and other adults are often involved, and critics say that SYATP events often are only nominally student-led.
As the students and staff gathered in the parking lot near the flag pole, Richard Winn girls’ basketball coach Jason Haltiwanger, one of RWA’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes sponsors, welcomed those in attendance and gave opening comments.
He reminded the group to be thankful to have this opportunity at RWA where they could come together, openly and without fear, to offer prayer to God.
Since 1954, FCA has been challenging coaches and athletes on the professional, college, high school, junior high and youth levels to use the powerful medium of athletics to impact the world for Jesus Christ. FCA focuses on serving local communities by equipping, empowering and encouraging people to make a difference for Christ.
“It seems that in this country today, many of our public Christian rights have been stripped away, so it’s good to see a group of students take a stand to show their faith and willing to pray, both publicly and privately, that God would lead our nation, school, and individual lives,” Haltiwanger said.
He also read aloud a selection of scripture (2 Chronicles 7:14) before the prayer circle began. Dr. Clyde McCants, an ARP minister and member of Richard Winn’s faculty, began the open prayer time, and senior student Mason Gibbons closed the time of prayer after others had been given the opportunity to pray aloud.