Dorothy McNally was looking down on the crowded Old Town Amphitheater in downtown Rock Hill on Sunday night, her family said.
McNally, a teacher for more than three decades who believed in empowering Christian educators, died earlier this year. The second annual Back-to-School Prayer rally was dedicated to her memory.
"It means a lot to us because was a very special woman," her daughter Dornetta Smith said. "God was first to her. She was a part of last year's program, and she wanted to see the prayer rally continued. This is a good tribute to what she did."
McNally, who supported the Compass dance group that performed during the rally, taught in York and Chester counties for 34 years.
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"She's looking down on them singing tonight," her husband of 46-years Donald McNally said. "We miss her dearly."
Dorothy McNally was also a member of the Rock Hill Chapter of the Christian Educators Association International, the organizers of the rally.
McNally's grandchildren were among the students who said they are excited to be starting school this week. Students gathered at the rally along with parents, educators and community leaders to pray for the school year.
Christian Educators Association International encourages church congregations to get involved with schools - to reach out and help where it's needed. Its national director, Finn Laursen, came from Ohio to participate in the rally.
He said it's important for teachers and students to be empowered through the Holy Spirit and the First Amendment allows for it.
Rev. C.T. Kirk of the Sanctuary of Life Outreach Center, shared some students' simple prayers for making new friends, getting good grades and simply surviving the school year.
"They took prayer out of the schools, but they didn't take prayer out of the hearts of our children," Kirk said to loud applause.
Between prayers for students, teachers and parents, the Compass group from Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church, the Ebenezer Baptist Church's Praise Dance Team and the Music Campers from First Baptist Church performed.