Gathered around the flagpole at Ellison High School on Saturday morning, a group of 13 men from Grace Christian Center prayed for the upcoming school year.

An annual event that started with four men praying for schools in Copperas Cove in 2003 expanded to more than 50 men spanning out across Copperas Cove, Harker Heights, Killeen and Nolanville to pray for the faculty, staff and students of each of the 77 schools and administrative buildings throughout the local school districts.

“We do this to support our schools before the start of each school year," said Associate Pastor Scott Wilmot, adult ministries director at Grace Christian Center. “We gather around the flagpole, which represents authority, and pray for the schools — faculty, staff and students. We believe it makes an impact on all people of our schools and the communities that surround them.”

Those with children in the public school system hear about shootings, gang violence, bullying and other issues in schools across the country and want to change the environment.

“I had two children in the Killeen school system, and my wife worked for the school system. I had an invested interest in covering them and the schools with prayer,” said Marvin Ross, a participant for the last six years.

Others have seen the difference prayer makes.

“My kid had problems in school and I was looking for change. I joined the prayer group, and the next school year, I noticed there were fewer problems. Prayer works,” Rich Radike said.

Prayer in schools is a controversial subject, and a 1963 Supreme Court ruling banned organized prayer in schools.

“They may be able to take prayer out of school, but they can’t stop us praying for schools,” coordinator Michael Hynes said.

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