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'Camp Fire:' Future Cowboys glow and grow through OSU orientation experience

Each summer, a flock of future Cowboys come to campus to begin orientation and start their careers as members of the Oklahoma State family.

When picking what type of orientation they would like to participate in, most Cowboys are given three options. Some pick one day orientation, others pick two day orientation.

But, a brave few are adventurous enough to pick the third option: Camp Cowboy.

Camp Cowboy is OSU’s five-day orientation program, comprised of two days of orientation and three days of nonstop fun filled with action, entertainment and personal connections campers can’t make anywhere else. 

Those personal connections are what keep the staff members of Camp Cowboy coming back every year. 

“...there is nothing like the cowboy family.” - Devyn Willey

“The connections that I’ve made with the freshmen are definitely the most important to me,” camp wrangler/counselor Devyn Willey said. “A couple weeks ago one kid came up to me and said ‘I felt like I couldn’t be myself coming in with all of these people, but I saw how crazy y’all were being and I knew there was no place for judgement here.’

"I’ve also been a counselor a few times and just hearing the really personal things that campers have to share and be vulnerable to share really big parts of their lives so quickly within the span of a weekend is a really special thing to be able to experience. It really goes to prove that there is nothing like the Cowboy family. You don’t see that anywhere but here. It’s really special.” 

“...I was already scared that people were already going to know each other and I was going to be outcasted. That wasn’t the case.” - Kory Lee

A large majority of the staff members at Camp Cowboy were campers going into their freshman years. They, like most freshmen, had a preconceived idea of what college and camp would be like until they arrived at Camp Cowboy. Kory Lee, now the marketing director for Camp Cowboy, was one of these freshmen.

“I was nervous to come (to Camp Cowboy) because where I went to high school was very ‘cliquey’ and so I was scared,” Lee said. “I’m not from Oklahoma and there’s like three people going here from my high school, so I was already scared that people were already going to know each other and I was going to be outcasted. That wasn’t the case. I came here and I was like ‘I can be myself.’ It was a really welcoming environment and that’s what gravitated me to keep doing Camp Cowboy.”

“...they have people that they can always call or rely on before they even start college.” - Atira Feliciano

Most campers go in to Camp Cowboy not knowing anyone, and almost all of them come out of camp with friends who will last a lifetime. 

For camp wrangler/counselor Atira Feliciano, fostering these relationships between campers is one of here favorite parts of Camp Cowboy.

“My favorite part about being a counselor is definitely fostering relationships between the campers," Feliciano said. “People do Camp Cowboy to make friends. A lot of freshmen are really nervous starting college, so being able to have a group of people who you already know starting college is really helpful. Most of them don’t even know each other when they come in to camp, and eventually sometimes they end up rooming together or just becoming really good friends after camp.

"Even if they’re not best friends after camp, they at least know that they have people that they can always call or rely on before they even start college.”

“...this is the stuff you wouldn’t get to do just anywhere.” - Abby Cochrane

The current campers are beginning to experience these connections as they continue through camp. This year, campers stayed in University Commons on OSU's campus, but during the day they were involved in activities at the Redlands campsite. Abby Cochrane, an incoming human development and family science major from Fort Worth, Texas, said she is enjoying getting to know everyone while at the Redlands.

“(I’ve enjoyed) the bonding time with people," Cochrane said. "I know we get to bond back at the commons, but this is the stuff you wouldn’t get to do just anywhere.”

Stretching comfort zones is a huge part of Camp Cowboy, working to bring the community together in a way not experienced at a regular orientation. One way Camp Cowboy helps campers get out of their comfort zones is with the various activities they have at the Redlands. From ropes courses and ziplines to a soggy game of musical chairs, campers experience much at Camp Cowboy.

“(I have enjoyed) getting to know everyone, and getting out of our comfort zones,” said incoming freshmen Kaleigh Gay, a biology major from Tulsa. “I’ve also liked whenever we’ve played games, especially whenever we did the hula hoop game … It was a lot of fun.”

“I’m looking forward to a good community that’s really mature and focused on studying but also focus on living their college experience to the fullest.”- Christian Campbell

After an exhausting weekend at Camp Cowboy, campers look toward the future and are ready to begin their college experiences at OSU.

“I’m looking forward to a good community that’s really mature and focused on studying," said incoming freshman Christian Campbell, a professional pilot major from Fort Worth, Texas, "but also focuses on living their college experience to the fullest.”

news.ed@ocolly.com