About 20 students were ready to pray at 7 a.m. around the flagpole at Downey High on Wednesday. But the pole was in the middle of the fenced-in construction area at the school.
The students were allowed into the area about 7:10 a.m. to participate in the nationwide "See You at the Pole."
Besides praying for their school and the government, the students -- who were close to 50 strong by 7:30 a.m. -- asked God to bless the construction workers unloading supplies and hammering in a nearby building.
Later, they broke into small groups to continue praying before gathering again in a larger circle to sing songs and finishing with a prayer.
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Colin Horne, 17, a senior at Downey, initiated the group prayer time in the student-led event. This is his fourth year of participation.
"I do it because I love Jesus with all my heart," he said. "We want people to see that God loves them."
When asked about people who might object to religion on campus, he said, "God's in our lives all the time. We can separate him from our curriculum, but he's still in our hearts."
Sophomore Meaghan Jones, 16, said Wednesday was "my first time to do the pole thing. I missed out last year. I just decided to come this year and maybe change the way people think about Jesus. I prayed that people might have a passion for God."
Jonathan Beckman, 17, said, "I believe God wants to change our school, and I wanted to be part of it. I prayed for the construction workers, and that God gives us the courage to change the school."
Freshman Jasmine Lara, 14, said: "At first, I didn't know what was going on. Then everyone started praying and everyone was together. It's really beautiful."
About 20 students prayed around the flagpole at Davis High School. Reports from other high schools noted similar gatherings.
"See You at the Pole" grew out of a 1990 youth retreat at a church in Texas when a handful of students went to three campuses to pray for their schools. In 1991, 45,000 students in four states held the first expanded prayer time. In 1992, the event went nationwide and drew an estimated one million students.
The "See You at the Pole" Web site, www.syatp.com, says the event, held the fourth Wednesday in September every year, "is not a demonstration, political rally, nor a stand for or against anything."
Rather, it's a time for Christian students "to pray -- for their school, friends teachers, government, and their nation."
And this year in Modesto, for the construction workers on campus.
Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at 578-2012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.