WellsLink celebrates 10 years of achievement, diversity

The WellsLink Leadership Program, celebrating 10 years since its creation, is an organization that strives to help students of color in academic, social, emotional and cultural ways.

The WellsLink Leadership Program is not for the average student. It is an organization that strives to help students of color in academic, social, emotional and cultural ways.

The program was created 10 years ago by Dr. James K. Duah-Agyeman, or “Dr. D” and Dr. Paul M. Buckley. WellsLink was founded to be a strong support system for freshmen and to help give students the “premier first year experience” through a mentoring program that enables students to learn the tricks of the trade from older students as well as make deep bonds with other freshmen in the program.

Photo: Stephen Sartori | Syracuse University
Nikki Giovanni was the keynote speaker at the Family Weekend 2013 10th Annual Wellslink Transition Ceremony.

According to Huey Hsiao, associate director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, there have been 572 WellsLink scholars over the last 10 years. The graduation rate is 84 percent, and 96 percent of students in the program returned for their sophomore year at SU, he said.

Sophomore Avi Hanel claims that WellsLink enables students to excel academically, and also builds a meaningful sense of community in its diverse, family-like setting. The program allows students of “historically underrepresented minority groups” to bond with others who may share similar experiences, as well as find new and better ways to acclimate to their new environment.

Friday marked the 10th Annual Transitions Ceremony of the program in which the previous year’s freshmen were honored for completing their first year and smoothly transitioning into their sophomore year.

An audience of families and friends of WellsLink scholars listened attentively to heartfelt speeches, profound student reflections and a performance by the Black Celestial Choral Ensemble in Hendricks Chapel.

Speakers emphasized the importance of a strong family network and using the bonds made through WellsLink as a springboard for development, growth and self-actualization.

Jose Gonzalez, a freshman member of WellsLink, said that the peer adviser program was helpful for him.

“It gives me a feeling of belonging,” Gonzalez said.

A highlight of the event was the “Presentation of the Stoles,” which symbolizes the transition of the previous year’s scholars into their second year. The scholars were individually called onto the lit stage and presented with golden stoles. There was also a recitation of an original poem, “Voice,” by senior Flose Marie Yardley Boursiquot.

The keynote speaker for this event was Nikki Giovanni, a world-renowned poet, writer, activist and educator who is known for her enduring fight for civil rights and equality both in her actions and her outspoken writing.

Giovanni identifies herself as a strong voice of the black community — she won the Langston Hughes Award in 1996, was the first recipient of the Rosa L. Parks Woman of Courage Award and was appropriately referred to as the “Princess of Black Poetry."

While many keynote speakers may focus on one specific theme, Giovanni addressed topics from traveling abroad, to the television show ‘Deal or No Deal,’ to erotic asphyxiation. She read some of her own poetry as well.

Giovanni was able to have audience members rolling in their seats with laugher one moment, and solemnly nodding along to frank truths the next. She offered a dynamic that exemplified seizing opportunity and promoted the indomitability of the human spirit, which went hand in hand with the ideals of the WellsLink program.

The 10th Annual WellsLink Leadership Program Transitions Ceremony was an event that celebrated the success of the scholars and also the achievement of the program itself.

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