“We reclaim this site as a place of hope, transformation and learning,” the Rev. Ken Nelson said during a prayer vigil held at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School on Sunday afternoon.

Three students were shot and injured at the school on Wednesday. They are out of the hospital and recovering.

A 14-year-old male is facing charges in the shooting.

O-W students have been out of school since the shooting and return on Monday.

Nelson told the school family on Sunday that “We stand with you, we stand for you. Together we stand. We are one.” Nelson is Orangeburg district superintendent of the United Methodist Church.

Three Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School students were shot outside the school Wednesday, Aug. 18.

Nelson also read a letter from UMC Bishop L. Jonathan Holston, who said he’s offering prayers for “comfort, healing and peace.”

Holston also called for an end to gun violence.

Orangeburg School District Superintendent Shawn Foster and Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell provide updates on the incident in which three O-W students sustained gunshot injuries as school was being dismissed for the day.

Bishop Donald Oliver of Edisto Drive Church of Christ thanked God for protecting students from further physical harm.

Orangeburg County School District Superintendent Dr. Shawn Foster noted the prayer event was an “outstanding gathering.”

“The word ‘sustainability’ comes to mind when I look around at the crowd today,” he said.

“We can’t come together now that something has happened, say a prayer and then tomorrow go back to doing the very thing we did before,” he added.

He said his grandmother used to say, “Sometimes you’ve got to put some legs on your prayers.”

He called for continued support by clergy, parents, churches and the community for O-W and students throughout the county.

“We’re here to wrap our arms around these students,” he said. “This is a great place to live, full of great people doing great things.”

“I’m tired of people not seeing the greatness we have at our front doors,” he said.

Foster said the leaders of O-W and the school district are “excited to have our students return on Monday.”

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“Orangeburg-Wilkinson is an outstanding school,” said Principal Rahim El-Amin, who’s an alumnus of the school.

In reflecting on the shooting incident, El-Amin stated, “That one situation does not represent what we do here at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School and it will not represent what we do here at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School.”

“What we do here is educate our students,” he added. “We do a great job here at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School of educating our students.”

El-Amin thanked local clergy for taking time to pray for the school’s staff, faculty, students and community.

“We need your support. We need your continued support throughout the rest of the year,” he said.

El-Amin said the school’s faculty and staff, “handled a situation we never thought would happen.”

“They were able to execute the plan to perfection,” he said.

“No matter what happens, I am still the proud principal at Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School,” he said.

Others who offered prayers during the vigil included:

• O-W student Kristan Hubbard, who thanked God for sparing the lives of students and staff.

She prayed, in part, for full recoveries for the three injured students, as well as strength for students who experienced trauma. She also asked God to bring peace and unity to the community.

• Kelvin Gadson, parent of an O-W student, prayed for protection of the school’s students, staff and leaders.

• Our Father’s House Ministries Pastor Carleen Riley asked God, “How can we help?”

• The Rev. Cynthia Muncie, of St. Andrews UMC, asked God to use community members to be the light in a dark world.

• Dr. Stanley Rivers, of Williams Chapel AME Church, prayed for God’s guidance for the students and all community members.

• The Rev. J.P. Sibley, of New City Church, offered a benediction.

After the prayer vigil, Jeff Folk, whose children are students at O-W, said, “It’s good to see prayer back in the school. We’ll do whatever we can do to support the school. It’s our school.”

Folk’s neighbor, Pastor Furman Guinyard of Word of Hope Outreach Ministries, also noted, “I want to be part of what is going on and I see there’s a great need here in the city to help the kids, so whatever the ministry can do to help, we’re more than willing to do it.”

Contact the writer: mbrown@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD

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