Thursday, September 18, 2003

Kids rise early to pray

'See You at the Pole' observed at many schools

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] At Monfort Heights Elementary, Cecelia Williamson, 10 (left), Allison Steinbeck, 11, and Allayna Winkler join classmates in the school's "See You at the Pole" observance.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
They came to their schools to pray Wednesday.

Dozens of teens gathered before dawn in front of Fairfield Freshman School along busy Ohio 4. Nearly 200 children and their parents formed circles around a flag at Monfort Heights Elementary School to pray for their teachers, their country, their president.

Across the Tristate, residents joined schoolchildren as part of the 14th annual "See You at the Pole" national day of student prayer. More than 3 million children across the world were expected to participate Wednesday.

Last year the National Network of Youth Ministers estimated more than 2.5 million teenagers gathered at their schools' flagpoles.

"I was nervous. I didn't think there would be many kids, that I would be the only one," said Allison Steinbeck, 11, who organized the meeting at Monfort Heights. "I was so joyful when I saw everyone. Our world is not perfect. We needed to pray for it."

Parent Lisa Herring stood with her arms around her son, Alex, 8, while her 10-year-old daughter stood nearby.

"I think it is just wonderful we have a society today that accepts this," said Herring, of Colerain Township. "So many are against allowing God and prayer anywhere."

Although only two students showed up to pray at Mount Healthy High School, senior Craig Forsberg said it was worth the effort. He attributed the turnout to the district's cancellation of busing and poor advertising of the event.

"I was disappointed because last year we had a lot more. The kids came as they were getting off the bus,'' Forsberg said. "I think it was still worth (praying) though. With what's going on in the world, we need help. If you can't turn to God, where can you turn?"

In Fairfield, 14-year-old Amanda Johnson thought it was so important to pray with classmates that she had her dad drive her to school to make sure she made the 6:20 a.m. program.

"I'm not ashamed,'' Johnson said after the 25-minute program of song and prayer. "Let our community know we have Christ in our school.''

People from the neighborhood joined a dozen students at St. Bernard-Elmwood Place Junior Senior High School for a 10-minute program organized by junior John Batty.

"I was surprised to see so many people come,'' said Batty, who got assistance from Highland Avenue Baptist Church.

At Conner High School in Boone County, the crowd around the flagpole grew all morning. By the time the 30-minute program had ended, nearly 200 of the school's 1,400 students were participating.

"Some of the students went straight on in the building, but the majority stopped and stayed and became part of the group," said event organizer and Latin teacher Laura Gardner.

Members of Dixie Heights High School's Colonels for Christ Club used the event as a kickoff to the group's monthly meeting. About 50 students joined the club Wednesday.

How it all beganThe first "See You at the Pole" started in the Fort Worth, Texas, suburb of Burleson in 1990. It originated with a single youth group meeting at several schools during a weekend retreat.

Since then, it has expanded throughout the United States and to countries worldwide, including Australia, Canada, China, the Dominican Republic, Germany, India, Japan and Kenya.

This year, "See You at the Pole" falls within a global Youth Prayer Week, sponsored by the Youth Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance. The prayer week, which began Sunday, runs through Saturday.

For information, call the National Network of Youth Ministers, (858) 451-1111, or go online at or

Cindy Kranz and William Croyle contributed. E-mail

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