HOW TO TAKE PART
To participate in monthly prayers for the school call Love Fellowship Baptist Church at 622-4479.
Jackie Moore gripped the handle of a classroom door at Hardy Elementary School, bowed her head and asked God to make safe the children who study in that room and in rooms throughout the school. And to help them learn.
As Moore prayed, Principal Anetta Ferguson leaned her head on the door and cried.
"I want the children to have a great day every day regardless of what goes on outside," she said.
Then she explained her concern for children who are homeless and their struggle to remain in school while not knowing where they are going to sleep at night.
Moore, a member of Love Fellowship Baptist Church, and Ferguson were among more than nearly two dozen people who walked the hallways of Hardy Elementary School this week and prayed. The group included teachers, school administrators, church members, parents and students.
"Lord, fill this school with your love and presence on a daily basis," said Moore. "Rest in this place for your name sake that you may be glorified."
Church members will be at the school once a month for prayer with anyone who wants to come.
Ferguson, who has been assistant principal and principal at the school for eight years, said she is aware that beliefs other than Christianity may be represented in her school, but she says people can choose whether they want to participate. The prayer walks only happen after school, and if any student, parent or teacher wants to participate, they can, she said.
Love Fellowship pastor Gerald O'Guinn said in the nine years he's been coming to the school he has never had anyone object to prayer.
Yet some schools have drawn controversy for praying.
Last year the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga banned public prayer before football games after receiving a complaint from the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The same organization challenged prayer and other religion-related activities involving Ridgeland High School's football players last year, and prayer over the loudspeaker at Soddy-Daisy athletic events in 2010.
O'Guinn said the church started prayer at the school nine years ago. Before he had a church building Hardy was one of the places where the church met. So while they were in the school praying as a church, they started praying for the school.
Retired school principal and Love Fellowship member Dr. Joyce Hardaway applied for a federally funded faith-based grant and started supplying the school with backpacks and uniforms. The church also uses the grant to hire certified teachers to tutor Hardy students after school and they've been doing that for eight years.
"We're here to help," said O'Guinn.
Parent Erica Hart came to the prayer walk with her fifth-grade daughter.
"I've been trying to get more into the Lord and when my daughter brought the paper home saying they were going to have this, I said I was going to be there," said Hart.
Hardaway said she is confident the prayers are working. Hardy has the same demographics as the five schools included in the iZone for struggling campuses, yet the school is not included in the state's bottom 5 percent of schools, she said.
She said she prays the Hardy students as well as those in the iZone continue to improve.
Ferguson said she believes her prayers for the school will be answered. She believes the students will show character traits such as responsibility and receptiveness to learning that will help them in and out of the classroom.
"Whatever comes before them they can handle it," she said. "I want them to kids of excellence in every respect."
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at email@example.com or call 423-757-6431.
Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...