St. Johns Parish Church Johns Island SC

On Mission at Haut Gap

Haut Gap Middle School Mission Partnership

Motivated by his faith to provide accessible education for all students on Johns and Wadmalaw Islands, Esau Jenkins established a school whose name means high ground in 1951.

In the last decade however, the South Carolina Board of Education threatened Jenkins’ legacy by labeling Haut Gap Middle along with several others as a failing school. With closure imminent, plans were drawn to bulldoze the buildings of the only middle school on Johns Island and sell the land. The Charleston County School District sent Kathy Lewis to prepare the faculty and students for the likely transition to other schools in the area. Lewis describes the school at the time as out of control and marvels how reducing the number of students did nothing to prevent the eruption of several gang fights daily. Unable to teach, the morale of the faculty had reached an all-time low. Walking with Kathy through the hallway chaos, an exasperated 7th grade student, Shawan Ridley told her, “The only thing that can help this place is Jesus!”.

Seeing a leader in Ridley, Kathy helped him start a student-led club for teachers and students called Faith Builders with the mission of transforming every school in America with the ideals of the gospel. Students and teachers began praying for the school at the flag poles, reading the Bible, and working together to spread God’s love on their campus.

Faith Builders invited the pastors and leaders of every church on the island to a dinner where Shawan shared his story about what it was like to be a student on Johns Island. Among the churches represented at the event, a retired administrator, Don Frazier, along with his wife Sally, followed through to partner with them in the mission of transforming their school with the gospel, and St. John’s Parish Church became the only church on the island to do so.

Because a key factor influencing school improvement is teacher morale, Don invited fellow parishioners to help him encourage the teachers. His wife Sally says that the St. John’s Angels supported the teachers in a variety of ways: by coaching the tennis team; serving as aids in the classrooms; helping with discipline by walking with students around the track; providing school supplies, volunteering as after-school tutors or reading partners; preparing homemade Christmas and Valentines’ treats for every student and staff member; hosting Fall Festival booths; and fundraising for specific teacher projects of underserved students. A teacher “favorite” was Mr. Don’s biscuits and gravy at the annual Back to School Breakfast.

Remembering the passionate commitment and inviting personality of her late husband, Sally Frazier, says “it’s the personal connection with God’s help that makes all the difference.” Of the several failing schools, Haut Gap Middle became the only one in the state to turn around and emerge as a school of excellence.

In step with Esau Jenkins’ mission over 70 years ago of making education on the Sea Islands accessible to all students, the Anglican Parish has continued to partner with the teachers and students over the last decade and a half. Further, as God’s providence would have it, the church that gathered for worship in the same location near the Angel Oak since 1734 moved their place of worship to Haut Gap Middle School on Sunday, July 17, 2022.

May this missional partnership on the highest ground of the Island continue the faith legacies of both Jenkins and St. John’s Parish Church, who as a light to the sea islands will make the gospel accessible to all people for the transformation of our community.

Celebration Breakfast for Haut Gap Teachers & Staff

We continue to partner and support Haut Gap Middle School. This year we have exceeded our goal for the Back-to-School Gift Card Drive for Haut Gap teachers and staff with $3,384 in gift cards and financial contributions.
Thank you to all who prepared and served delicious breakfast casseroles, homemade breads, and fresh fruit for our Mission Partners at Haut Gap Middle School. Principal Travis Benintendo shared how St. John's Parish Church continues to play an invaluable role in the transformation of the school and community.  After telling the teachers and staff about our new worship space in the cafeteria, Father Jeremy prayed a blessing over the school year.