“So, why did you decide to come to Ouachita?”

While about as cliché as “Where are you from?” and “What’s your major?” the diverse range of answers found at the other end of this question has always fascinated me.

For some students, Ouachita runs in the family. They bleed purple and gold. Others have the desire to pursue their passions at the collegiate level and are blessed with academic or music scholarships allowing them to do so. And others simply choose Ouachita for the Christian environment of a small Baptist college in Arkadelphia.

My journey to Tiger Nation began in seventh grade, through a summer camp called PraiseWorks. As the son of two Southern Arkansas University graduates and the grandson of a Reddie, it seemed that only through divine intervention would I cross paths with Ouachita. However, through this worship arts camp, that’s exactly what happened.

Sponsored by the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, PraiseWorks provides the opportunity for Arkansas middle school and high school students to gather to worship, learn about worship and, through hands-on experience, acquire skills for leading worship. Tracks in which students can participate include leadership, photography, design, video production, drama, song writing, piano, percussion and much more.

I attended this camp every July from seventh grade to my senior year of high school with my cousins (and later, fellow Ouachita students) Colby and Jessica Williamson. At the time I went, it was a small camp, with only around 300-400 students registered. This gave me the opportunity to develop lifelong friendships with other future Ouachita students such as Abby Root, Hannah Fender and Kayla Walker.

The novelty of PraiseWorks helped me fall in love with the culture of Ouachita and the beauty of its campus, and the Lord used the camp’s focus on worship emphasized by camp leaders such as Ouachita alumni Larry Grayson, Robert Ramsey and Adam Wheat to lead me to my life’s calling.

I have been blessed with the chance to intern for PraiseWorks on two occasions as a Ouachitonian, which has allowed me to pour back into the camp that meant so much to me and see other campers such as Alec Edmonds, Buzz Hardin and Hannah Hines be led to Ouachita through this experience.

In addition to PraiseWorks, other camps such as CentriKid and Super Summer also come through campus each summer, and several Ouachita students contribute to their success. These events can have a profound spiritual impact on the lives of Arkansas’ youth, as they did for me and so many others.

Ouachita students, as you prepare to graduate or continue your college experience, I encourage you to consider getting involved in or donating to any one of these camps. Your investment may lead someone to become a Tiger for Life or, more importantly, lead them to Christ.

Evan Wheatley is a 2017 Ouachita graduate who now works as a manufacturing support team member for Lockheed Martin in Camden, Ark. 


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