Hard Work U® Journey Begins with Week-Long Character Camp

Incoming students launch their College of the Ozarks careers with Character Camp, a fast-paced week of new friends, hard work, and memorable experiences.

For many young people, college marks their first time living away from home. Character Camp prepares students for the rigors of college life by teaching them to become independent, self-reliant individuals.

This intensive orientation program introduces students to College of the Ozarks unique Mission and Vision, as well as the school’s five Goals: Academic, Vocational, Christian, Patriotic, and Cultural. It is required for all incoming students.

Joining the College of the Ozarks Family

College of the Ozarks helps new students build a community of friends during orientation by assigning them to small groups called “families.” Each family is led by a “Mom” and a “Pop”; an upperclassmen young lady and an upperclassman young man, respectively.

Moms and Pops guide their families through the Character Camp week’s activities. They offer their “kids” helpful advice, provide them with encouragement, and answer their questions as they settle into their new environment.

Claire McCann, a Freshman Nutrition and Dietetics major from Fenton, Missouri, shares a lesson Character Camp taught her, saying  “be open to new experiences and meeting new people.”

Character Camp families “reunite” three times during the semester to review one another’s progress, perform community service projects, and receive ongoing support from Mom and Pop.

Introduction to Work Education

Hard Work U®. lives up to its nationally-renowned reputation with a one-of-a-kind work education program that enables students to graduate debt-free, as they receive valuable work experience that will propel them to successful careers.

As one of the largest work stations on campus, The Keeter Center offers visitors the opportunity to meet many of College of the Ozarks outstanding students in person. In fact, it is the hard work and dedication of our student staff that has helped our lodge, restaurant, and event venue earn 2019 Travelers’ Choice honors from Trip Advisor.

When you visit The Keeter Center  you will find hard-working students providing exceptional service in a number of roles including:

  • Administrative, catering and sales positions
  • Banquet servers
  • Guest services representatives
  • Kitchen staff
  • Maintenance workers
  • Restaurant staff

In addition to The Keeter Center, College of the Ozarks boasts 100 other work areas throughout its campus. At every work station, students work 15 hours per week during the semester and two 40-hour work weeks throughout the semesters. Students receive work performance grades which are part of their permanent academic records.

Activities to Build Character

Besides making new friends and becoming familiar with life at College of the Ozarks, Character Camp includes a host of memorable activities that prepare students to thrive in college and beyond:

  • Challenge courses build a sense of teamwork and cohesion among student family members. Austin Johnson, a communication major from St. Charles, Missouri, says the obstacle course was his favorite activity.
  • Students complete their first College of the Ozarks writing assignment, which is an essay on “Reflections of a Christ-Like Character.” Essays are evaluated on relevance, depth, accuracy, and clarity.
  • Other highlights throughout the week include chapel services, presentations from alumni and administrators, and interactive entertainment.
  • The Etiquette Banquet brings student families together for a Keynote Presentation and recognition of the top-scoring Christ-Like Character essays written during Character Camp.
  • During the Etiquette Banquet, incoming students sign the College of the Ozarks Honor Code, which states “I agree to be an honest, trustworthy, caring, and responsible citizen. I will uphold these values in others and myself.”

As an integral part of this special place, The Keeter Center is proud to uphold College of the Ozarks founding principle that “character in young people is best developed from an education which includes the head, the heart, and the hands.”

At the start of every new semester, The Keeter Center is honored to be a part of welcoming new students into their College of the Ozarks journey.




C of O student paint fence during character camp

New C of O student complete challenge course with his team’s help