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WHS students travel for Bible studies class

By Sarah L. Smith
Coastal Observer

Michelle Jolly, a Coastal School Ministries teacher, loves to tell stories about former students.

“We’ve seen students come in with just the heaviness of their lives that’s totally beyond their control ... and over the weeks of this class, they begin to feel this safe zone,” she said. “Hope is renewed in their spirits, and they don’t feel like they carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.”

The Bible study class is the first religion class Waccamaw High School has offered for credit. Since religion is not taught in public schools, Coastal School Ministries, a nonprofit nondenominational organization, teaches the program.

Students ride the Teach My People bus to All Saints’ Church on Kings River Road. From 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, these students learn new vocabulary words and ancient history described in the Bible.

Starting a new Coastal School Ministries Bible study class for Waccamaw High is exciting, Jolly said. She doesn’t know who the class will touch.

“There was this young girl one and a half years ago,” she said. “She had lived in a shelter for over two years ... and she had so much talent and skill, but she had no self-esteem. Over the course of the semester she started to see her own strengths.”


In Monday’s class, Laura Hucks, the lead teacher, encouraged 17 ninth- through 12th-graders to be who God wants them to be.

Behind Hucks, an overhead projector displayed the first page of her Power Point presentation on the white cement-block wall.

“Identity” was the subject, with an emphasis on “who does God say I am?”

“What is identity?” Hucks asked the students.

Answers vary from “you” and “me” to “who you are” and “identity theft.”

As students sat at tables positioned in a circle, Hucks looked at each one and asked them if they’d looked in the mirror before they left for school that morning.

After students snickered, they looked around at one another.

“You all probably looked at least once,” Hucks said.

More laughter followed.

After introducing the theme of the day, students learned their new vocabulary words: omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, redeem and sanctify. They talked about their own identities and analyzed Old Testament scriptures describing God’s identity and relationship to people.

“They didn’t talk much at first. Now, they’re picking on each other,” Jolly said.

The first week students shared their life stories using posters and Power Point presentations. Each day they share their concerns during prayer time.

“It’s a relationship-based class,” Jolly said.

During the semester, students will take tests, quizzes, write papers, create projects and get graded on their participation and work.

If a student passes the course, he or she gets one elective credit toward their high school diploma.

Their Bible knowledge goes “from one end of the spectrum to the other,” Hucks said. All she asks of students is that they respect one another.

“What you believe is your choice,” she said, when she referred to creationism.

If students have doctrine-related religious questions, Jolly said she’ll refer them to their ministers or another minister.

“We just present the Bible,” she said.

Some students grew up in a Christian church; others did not, Hucks said. If they go to church, students heard about the class there.

“I go to [All Saints’], and my mom told me about it,” said Jordan Clarke, a 10th-grader.

If they didn’t hear about it at church, they learned about the course at registration this summer.

“I guess I just wanted to see what it was all about,” said Aoriona Wright, a ninth-grader.

She signed up right before school started. She’s been in the class for three weeks and is already reading the Bible more. That was her goal, Wright said.

Each student has a New International Version Bible in the classroom as well as a notebook full of handouts and vocabulary sheets to take home.

In between lecture days, Hucks uses movies, music and YouTube clips.

“We allow them to show us what they’re going to connect with,” Jolly said.

If students favor music, teachers will use music. If students respond well to movies and movie clips, they’ll use those visual aids.

Hucks also invites speakers, like youth ministers from area churches, and employees at local nonprofits, to share their own stories. They either talk about their relationship with God, or tell stories about how they overcame challenges with God’s help, Jolly said.

She hopes this first group of students will tell their friends about the class, and more students will sign up for the spring semester. Hucks said the ministry can take up to 50 students at Waccamaw. They just need a parent or guardian’s permission to go off campus. The class is free.


To pay for teachers, books, transportation, insurance and classroom items, Coastal School Ministries raises money at churches, receives private donations and applies for grants.

Dawn Hensley, the ministry’s executive director, said the nonprofit gets most of its money from churches, grants and private donors.

On Sept. 17 they’ll hold a “Fall Gathering” fund-raiser at 6 p.m. in the Tara Ballroom at Litchfield Beach and Golf Resort.

Barbara Huell, director of Wilds Funeral Home in Georgetown, Stovall Witte, the vice president for advancement at Charleston Southern University, and various students will give their personal testimonies.

The evening includes dinner and a silent auction.

To purchase a $25 ticket, e-mail Hensley at dawn@coastalschoolministries.com.

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