As gray clouds gathered in the morning sky, dozens of Tuttle Middle School students joined hands Wednesday, formed a circle around the flagpole in front of the school and proceeded to thank God for their blessings and pray together about their worries.
The students were taking part in See You at the Pole — an annual meeting for public prayer typically organized by students at public schools.
The first such gathering took place in 1990, planned by a group of students in Burleson, Texas. On Sept. 12, 1990, 45,000 students in 1,200 schools in four states conducted the inaugural See You at the Pole event. A year later the movement went national, and today millions of students throughout all 50 states gather at their school’s flagpoles on the fourth Wednesday of September.
“It’s not always easy the easy thing to do to live as a Christian,” said eighth-grader Davis Thompson, one of the organizers of Tuttle’s See You at the Pole. “It’s not always the popular thing. But it is always the right thing.”
For Thompson, knowing other students were praying at the same time made the event special.
“This is a very powerful experience,” he said.
Thompson and fellow organizers Trent Johnson, Cali Saunders, Devin Guard, Lindsey Riggen and Caleb Whicker made sure the event was well-publicized. Announcements about it were made at lunchtime and during morning announcements at school. Posters were made and a Facebook page was established.
“We tried really hard to get a big turnout,” Thompson said. “But I didn’t really expect it to be as big as it was.”
Many of the students in the circle took a microphone and shared their prayers out loud — something Saunders knew probably took a lot of courage.
The students who organized See You at the Pole saw the event as an opportunity to mentor younger students.
“I really wanted to make an impact on the sixth-graders,” Thompson said. “It’s so close to the beginning of the year ... I’m hoping they took away something they’ll keep through their whole school career.”
State laws prohibit school personnel from participating in See You at the Pole events in Indiana, leaving the students to make all the arrangements.
“I feel like we accomplished a lot,” Saunders said.
“I had teachers tell me we did a great job handling the responsibility,” he said.
The sense of ownership the students had in the event made them put in extra effort.
“It was something that was important to us,” Thompson said. “We planned it and we talked about it ... a lot.”
Thompson, Saunders, Guard , Johnson, Whicker and Riggen are close friends who together attend a weekly Bible study. They are steadfast about their faith, regardless of the ribbing the sometimes take because of it.
“Sometimes it’s hard,” Saunders admitted. “We’re surrounded by earthly temptations and sin. It can be hard to hold fast to your faith, but we have a solid foundation with our friendship. We stick together through the trials.”
Guard shared that sentiment.
“I know I always have five people I can fall back on anytime,” he said.
The group hopes all the students who took part in Wednesday’s See You at the Pole were enriched by the experience.
“We were trying to reach out to people and make them really realize what it means to do things for God and live your life for Him,” Johnson said.
Thompson felt blessed by the opportunity to help organize the event.
“Sharing our faith is the best thing we can do,” he said.
The group prayed for weeks about the event. When it happened and so many students came out to take part, Saunders was heartened.
“I could see God doing work there,” she said with a smile. “I could see it in the way people opened up and prayed. When the music was playing in the background and people were praying, I just knew God was in that circle with us. I could feel it.”
Thompson looked thoughtful.
“Maybe this was a new start for one, maybe two people,” he said. “I we touched them; if we made a different in their lives ... I consider that a huge success.”