WEMCH students start day with prayer at college
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 23, 2013 1:46 PM
Harlie Disney, 14, Briana Taber, 14, Micah Sherard, 14, and Cheyenne Jackson, 14, hold hands in a prayer circle around the clock at Wayne Community College. A group of students enrolled in Wayne Early/Middle College High School gathers every morning before school to pray together.
It's not unusual to hear about folks who pray around the clock -- during difficult times, offering up wishes and concerns for loved ones or those in need.
But at Wayne Community College, Wayne Early/Middle College High School students are literally praying around the clock in the center of the campus.
Like clockwork, at around 10:40 weekday mornings, students file over to the popular landmark, step onto the brick wall that surrounds it and form a circle.
"We all get together, we hold hands -- ask if there's anything we can pray for you. Mostly it's classes and tests, something going on in the family. Then someone volunteers to pray and then we head up (to class)," senior Casey Shearin said.
It's a brief, unobtrusive way to start their school day, which begins at 10:50 a.m.
The student-led effort has become a tradition since the school first opened in 2006, principal Lee Johnson said.
"I can't remember it not being here early on," she said. "I think there were some youth pastors that would come in, invited by the students."
It's similar to "See You At the Pole," she said, the annual gathering of students to meet at the school flagpole for prayer, scripture-reading and worship. That event, held in late September, began in 1990 and has grown internationally.
Three campus groups at WEMCH spearhead the morning ritual -- Take 3, Girls for God and Guys for God.
"I'm in Take 3 and Girls for God," Casey said. "It's student-led so we do a lot of worship, hanging out.
"I have built some of my best friends here through those clubs. We talk about where God is in our lives, where we're serving Him."
Being a young person of faith can be a challenge, students said, especially when it comes to living that out at school and in the world.
"Everywhere you go as a Christian, you want to find a group that you fit into and be a part of it," Casey said. "Coming in as a freshman it was awesome to have a group of girls to hang out with. This feels like home anyway, because the school is so small and so tight."
The 17-year-old said the group of believers that gathers every morning is diverse and also inclusive.
"I have sort of enjoyed seeing that people are willing to bring whatever the problems or situations that they're going through, either in school or at home, and I enjoy being able to be an instrument to do what God wants to through the school," sophomore Jordan Wildman said. "It's sort of been able to connect us with everyone that shares the same beliefs as us. And it strengthens relationships that none of us would even have considered having throughout high school."
The 15-year-old, one of the prayer circle leaders, had actually heard about the effort before she even set foot on campus.
"Mallory Frederick (a student in the first class) was one of the people who started the prayer at the clock," she said. "When they graduated it's just sort of continued."
Casey admits the group does bring with it a bit of visibility on campus.
"You just kind of notice it," she said. "It's kind of off-the-wall to see a group in a circle standing around the clock.
"Sometimes you get like normal college students walking by and ask, what are you doing? We'll answer and invite them to join."
Daniel Hartley, 15, is a ninth-grader at the school and belongs to Guys for God.
"It's great because to go to school and be able to learn like this, it's great how everybody can get together and share the same beliefs," he said. "It helps your day go a whole lot better."
Tenth-grader Kayleon Dortch agreed.
"Just being able to join with other people that love God as much as I do, being able to start your day off with a plan, being able to release and connect with other people, it's like a refreshing way to start your day knowing that God's moving through your school," she said. "You can see more faith and more joy on people's faces.
"Most people aren't used to praying at school. This is my opportunity to share my beliefs at school."
While the groups are not school-sponsored, the principal said she has been impressed by the students' approach.
"It's a positive opportunity for them to share their faith, and I respect that," Mrs. Johnson said. "I think it's a good start to our school day."