Last week, I spent two days at the College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri. It’s my second time speaking to the faculty and students of this great place. I wish I could take you with me sometime to see it.
It’s quite an extraordinary school. Its nickname is: “Hard Work U.” Students attend classes at this college, and get their bachelors degree for free. Well, I should say — without paying any money. They certainly pay for it in effort. Every student is assigned a job; perhaps different jobs throughout their years on campus, and their labor in covers their college tuition. They literally work for their education. In fact, all the buildings on campus were built with the help of students. Not only does Hard Work U make higher education available to families who may not be able to afford the tuition of a normal state or private university, but they graduate with a work ethic, and a better perspective on what it takes to make it in life. The kids I met were courteous, grateful and hungry to grow in their life skills. Many of them grew up in impoverished, smaller towns. College of the Ozarks is exposing them to great leaders and world-class speakers from business and government to give them vision for what they could accomplish. May I say the obvious? This environment makes these students different in so many ways.
Hard Work U doesn’t accept just any student. They only accept 8% of the students who apply, which is the seventh highest rate in the country, above many Ivy League schools. All prospective students are interviewed — to make sure they fit the culture Hard Work U is attempting to perpetuate. The number one criteria for acceptance is financial need. Number two is academic performance.
During their first ten days on campus, they participate in “Character Camp,” where they are placed in communities with two upperclassmen who are “mom and pop” for the freshmen students. During that period, the older students share the school expectations, they do team building exercises, discuss time management and etiquette, and do community service. They spend time at a staff or faculty members home and those adults become “Grand moms and pops.” Family reunions are held once a year — where older students and staff gather with the younger students and share stories about how they are doing.
One benefit of being a student at College of the Ozarks is obvious. The community, the work-hours students put in each week, and the trips they take with World War II veterans to places around the globe to build qualities that most students only read about in history books. Like I said — I wish I could take you with me sometime to see it. Or perhaps a better idea might be — what if each of us created similar environments where we live?
Thanks College of the Ozarks for all you do for the next generation.