Area students turn out in record  number for annual prayer event

By Megan R. Harrell
Star Staff

Hundreds of local students, teachers, and parents gathered around flagpoles Wednesday morning to pray for their schools and the nation. See You at the Pole (SYATP) is a student initiated prayer event that has been observed nationwide for the past 12 years.
   Students have been taking part in SYATP every third Wednesday of September since the prayer movement began in Texas in 1990. The movement is led entirely by students; however, teachers and parents also attend to show their support.
   Students at area schools arrived in record numbers for this year's SYATP. Cloudland Elementary School had the largest turnout with over 320 in attendance. Only 420 students attend the elementary school. "We have done this in the past but on a smaller scale. This year's was the largest that we have had, and the most organized," Cloudland Kindergarten teacher, Denise Storie, said.
   Storie attributed this year's SYATP success to the recent influx of national patriotism and renewed faith in God. "I think with the situation the country is in and with all of the terrorism, there is a sense that we need to get back to God and to depend on him for his help," Storie said. "Families are feeling the need to get back together and share that experience."
   Cloudland Elementary students sang songs, including The Star-Spangled Banner, and four students led the group in prayer. "It was very meaningful; the kids were quiet and respectful," Storie said. "I was particularly impressed with their heart-felt prayers. Sometimes they are better at that than adults. It was very touching to me."
   At Central Elementary School, about 45 people attended the SYATP prayer time. Suzie Wolf, secretary, stated that the group prayed for the school and for the country in general. "I think that it was a good time for the students to be encouraged by each other and know that they have the support of the faculty and each other," Wolf said.
   Nearly 100 students were involved in the prayer event held at Central High School. Hampton High School counted 36 at its service, and Unaka High School saw 26 come out to pray around the flagpole. T.A. Dugger, Elizabethton High School, and other county schools also participated in the event.