Column: Being a camp counselor is a life-changing experience

Photo by Shelby Warner

Working at a summer camp is one of the most rewarding experiences I believe every college student should have during their four years. Being a camp counselor can be even more vital and helpful than any sort of internship you can have. Anyone can work with adults, but it takes true skill, patience, and problem solving to learn how to manage and entertain various groups of kids all day, every day for three months during the summer.

The summer after my freshman year at Ole Miss, I had the opportunity to live on Catalina Island in California and teach kids how to snorkel, paddleboard, and kayak all while living in a cabin and watching over 15 middle school girls every night. While this was, by far, the most exhausting and humbling experience I have ever had, there is no better way to learn about yourself than when you have been stretched to the limits and are both physically and mentally exhausted. That’s when you learn the most; feeling like you can’t go on, but knowing you have no choice because people are counting on you to do a job.

I believe traveling to places you’ve never been to take on jobs you’ve never done is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Working within a summer camp environment teaches you how to deal with kids and allows you to work within a small group of people similar to yourself.

My co-counselors and I came from all over the country, as well as Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland and South Africa. To work alongside people close to my age with similar interests, but completely different cultures and backgrounds is what also makes working at a summer camp so rewarding. Being a camp counselor or instructor is one of the most selfless ways to volunteer your time and energy to serve others around you. Ultimately, the kids impacted my life more than I impacted theirs during my time as a camp counselor.

When working with various groups of kids for a span of three months, every day presents a new challenge. Being in charge of water activities all day for nine hours meant I was going to encounter kids who loved the water, as well as kids who were scared of the ocean, or kids who were not strong swimmers.

I vividly remember one girl who was terrified to go snorkeling, but loved fish and marine biology more than anything. Having to think on your feet when working with kids, I grabbed a surfboard and had her lay flat on it, while putting her mask and snorkel in the water.

I pushed her alongside me as I continued to lead the group of 15 kids into the ocean that day. She was thankful that she was able to see everything the other kids were, but never had to be submerged in the ocean. Through this experience, I found that I loved to be resourceful and problem solve, and my ability to think quickly and creatively allowed me to be successful at that.

The biggest reason I believe working at a summer camp is something all young people should do is because there is truly no off time. At the end of my nine-hour shift on the dive deck being active and leading kids all day, I then returned to my cabin of girls, who I was in charge of leading that night, and watching over. This is truly when you learn how to step up and be a positive role model, even when you are exhausted and would love nothing more than to curl up in your bed alone at home.

Summer camp is both a positive experience for the counselors and the kids because it allows us to unplug and actually enjoy what is around us. With no cars, paved roads, buildings, air conditioning, TVs or cell phone service on the island that summer, I learned more about myself during those three months than I have the past four years of college.

I developed skills I never knew I had. Any summer camp counselor experience is beneficial because it forces you to step outside of your comfort zone and live with a group of strangers for the summer. I can truly say me and my co-counselors became like family that summer, and I still keep up with them all over the world almost three years later.

I urge everyone who has ever considered being a camp counselor to apply anywhere and truly be pushed to your limits. There is nothing more satisfying than growing as a person, developing a new set of skills, while impacting the lives of kids around you for a summer.

Photo by: Shelby Warner


Photo by: Shelby Warner
Photo by: Shelby Warner
Photo by Shelby Warner

Shelby Warner


Chicken on a Stick is an Oxford tradition

Freshly fried chicken, crispitos, pizza sticks, and potato logs at Chevron’s Chicken on a Stick                                      Photo by Shelby Warner

Around 1 a.m. on a Friday night in Oxford, you’ll find some students at a Chevron gas station famously named “Chicken on a Stick.”

Located on the four corners where North and South Lamar and University Avenue intersect, this gas station is a town favorite for food and beer purchases before heading to a late night after bars close.

Chicken on a Stick is no ordinary Chevron gas station. After hours, they offer delicious late night food ranging from hot crispitos, pizza sticks, potato logs, and of course the chicken on a stick.

“A chicken on a stick is basically a giant floured, battered, and deep fried chicken tender put on a skewer, which makes it easy to eat while walking,” Ole Miss Junior Libby Woodbury said. “It’s something you would probably find at a fair, but luckily, we have it available to us every night.”

Ole Miss Senior Waverly Reeves said the crispitos are his weakness. “After I went out Monday night, I found myself eating five of them,” he said.

With several friendly workers there to serve you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there is never a bad time to stop by and grab a drink or snack.

Rebecca Cole began working there in October of 2015. She said her favorite part of her job is that the location is so close to the Square and campus, she can walk anywhere she needs to. “I love the location of working here,” she said. “It’s hard work though, like today, I work a 12-hour shift for minimum wage.”

Cole behind the counter as a Cashier Photo by: Shelby Warner

Fresh chicken, crispitos, and pizza sticks are made every day in their kitchen, and the cook doubles the amount on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday in preparation for the students who will make their nightly visit on their way home from the bars.

“I am a cook and a cashier,” Cole said. “I was trained to do both. I get here early in the mornings and cook the famous snacks we offer, and then I cashier the rest of the day.”

The famous oversized chicken tender haven’t always been that way, Cole said. Several years ago, it wasn’t solely a chicken tender, but had vegetables and potatoes on the stick as well. After numerous complaints, Cole said they eventually took away the vegetables and potatoes, and thus, chicken on a stick was born.

Around 1 a.m. on a Thursday or Friday night is when you’ll see a line that has formed out the door of the gas station filled with students craving something hot and deep-fried. With Chicken on a Stick’s target audience stopping by after several hours on the Square at the bars, there is always a funny story following this after-hour’s food joint.

“During football season, someone walked right into the window and broke through it,” Cole said. “I swear that the later it gets at night, the more crazy it can be. Sometimes people can have an attitude, but most of the time, everyone is friendly and funny.”

Students have been known to create their own specials and have a “usual” order every time they arrive. One of the favorites is called the Schoerke Special that includes a chicken on a stick, a pizza stick, and a crispito all served with a side of ranch dressing.

“I created the Schoerke special because it’s the perfect cure for when that late night hunger strikes,” UM senior Chan Schoerke said. “I swear, it also prevents a hangover the next day.”

While famous for its late night food, many people don’t know that this locally-run gas station also offers plate lunches and catering for your Grove tent during football season.

Chicken on a stick has even been mentioned in a BuzzFeed article naming the best late night food in college towns nationwide. They have also been featured in Bon Appétit Magazine twice, as well as featured on the Travel Channel. Leave it to the small town of Oxford to be known for its delicious gas station food.

For the past 30 years, Chevron’s Chicken on a Stick has become a well-known part of Oxford and the college experience. Everyone knows a trip to Oxford is never complete without a visit there. Oxford cab drivers have even been known to take out-of-town visitors to Chevron for a quick snack after the bars close.

“Being from California, a lot of my friends have come out to visit me to get that true Southern college experience,” Woodbury said. “You should see the looks on their faces when I tell them we are about to go get delicious fried chicken, and the cab pulls up to a gas station.”

As the town of Oxford continues to expand and change to accommodate the growing student body, some things in this town will live on for years to come. Oxford offers it all, from the small town Southern charm, beautiful UM campus and delicious food.

Chicken on a Stick is living proof that amidst the famous restaurants this town has to offer, small locally-run places, such as a Chevron gas station, can compete in producing some of the most delicious food in town.

Leave it to Oxford to make a gas station famous for their oversized chicken tenders and deep fried pizza sticks. You truly can’t compete with a college experience that offers 24-hour deep fried goodness served hot at a gas station.

Chicken on a Stick has been a trademark of Oxford for 30 years and doesn’t plan to change anything about themselves anytime soon.

The menu at Chicken on a Stick            Photo by: Shelby Warner
Sign displayed outside Chevron
Kappa Delta Sorority celebrating bid day with a chicken on a stick

Shelby Warner

Dodo Pizza opens in Oxford

Opening its doors less than two weeks ago at 614 Jackson Avenue, Dodo Pizza brings a new style of pizza to Oxford. The restaurant’s goal is to focus on high quality ingredients and customer value.

Their menu offers milkshakes, as well as a variety of different pizzas, such as the Chicken Club, Margherita, Hawaiian, The Meats, Supreme and Veggie.

“What sets Dodo Pizza apart is not just the style of pizza, but the business setup,” Oxford resident Caitlin Holland said. “Dodo is the only pizza place I know that doesn’t take phone orders and, instead, makes you order online or carryout.”

Dodo Pizza’s website features an ongoing count of the amount of money made in sales that day, as well as the amount of orders they’ve received. Complete with its own drone, you may have seen the Dodo Pizza car riding around Oxford promoting their pizza.

Originating in Russia, Oxford is the first American location for the pizza chain. “We really hope to franchise all over the country,” Manager Alena Tikhova said. “Oxford was our first location, because we had heard about it in a pizza magazine and thought it would do well here being a college town and all.”


Dodo Pizza’s focus is tech-based, and it wants to be the first artisan pizza delivery place in Oxford. Most people don’t notice Dodo Pizza tucked away in an old house behind the trees on Jackson Avenue.

Walking in, you immediately notice Russian accents and friendly smiles that welcome you. The walls are clean with fresh paint, large steel ovens, and brightly colored pizza boxes. Your order is taken on an iPad, and the entire process runs smoothly.

With pizza competitors in Oxford, such as Pizza Hut, Papa John’s Pizza, and Domino’s, Dodo Pizza owners say high quality ingredients and the overall pizza experience sets them apart.

“There is such an ease in ordering your pizza online on Dodo’s website that it makes me almost never want to phone order a pizza again,” Holland said.

Shelby Warner

Oxford community values the Whirlpool Trails

Flying over hills, rocks, and cycling through trees, Ole Miss Senior Brent Weltner spends a full hour each day exploring the Whirlpool Trails in Oxford.

“It’s easy to get stressed and feel under a lot of pressure as an accounting major,” said Weltner. “Riding my bike every day after class clears my head before I have to go tackle the mountains of homework they assign us.”

Weltner took up mountain biking during his freshman year at Ole Miss. He had heard about the trails through a friend, and decided to borrow a bike and test them out one day after class.

“I never thought that exploring the Whirlpool Trails a mile off campus would lead to a passion for mountain biking,” said Weltner, who now owns several specialized mountain bikes.

Located at the end of Chucky Mullins Drive and across from Highway 6, Whirlpool Trails provide a scenic, nature-filled experience for Oxford students and residents.

From easy short trails to long uphill challenging trails, runners, walkers, and bikers spend sunny days exploring different routes.

“You feel like you’re in a whole different world,” said avid runner Ida Jane Cole. “This is one part of Oxford that doesn’t feel like small town Mississippi. It reminds me of being home in North Carolina.”

Cole makes a point to come to the trails every day after class to get outside after spending the day sitting in a classroom. With different trail levels that are color coded, runners never seem to get bored with their route.

Several trails lead to different ponds, docks, or clearings within the woods. There are several sites to explore at the end of these trails as well, such as the mysterious abandoned hippie bus and an older fire tower.

On an early morning, you can often find the Ole Miss Cross Country team running together on the Whirlpool Trails as their morning workout.

From heavily wooded areas of the Whirlpool Trails to long clearings, bikers and runners can both find something to suit their workout.

Weltner mountain biking through Whirlpool Trails

The Whirlpool trails were originally the site of old train tracks, after the Buckner’s Trestle crash in 1870. The gravel laid down for the rail tracks makes it an easy and clear spot for athletes

Mile markers are somewhat hidden, tacked onto random trees as runners and bikers venture on the path.

“There is a really rugged untouched feel to the trails, which is what I think makes them so appealing to outdoor lovers,” said Weltner.

The main path offers a flat and wide eight-mile loop that stretches over the hills adjacent to the highway. There is a large fire tower at the end of the trail that, once climbed, is the highest point in Oxford.

Runners are able to choose their route and challenge themselves based on the path they take. Some paths offer great hiking options as well.

Shelby Warner
The Oxford EAGLE