Following a yearlong planning and development process involving hundreds of members of the campus community, “Leading With Distinction,” Syracuse University’s new academic strategic plan, was unveiled earlier this month. A launch symposium will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 26, from…
WellsLink Leadership Program Transforms Lives of First-Year Students of Color
For the past 19 years, the WellsLink Leadership Program has transformed the lives of first-year students of color on the Syracuse University campus through peer mentoring and structured academic, social and cultural enrichment activities.
Through this nationally recognized program, which facilitates the transition from high school to college, students develop multifaceted skills, connect with mentors and develop into leaders who feel empowered to make a positive impact at Syracuse University and in their communities.
Shalom Acheampong ’25 came to the University from Manchester, Connecticut, and while she says she’s always tried to act like a leader, her time as a WellsLink Scholar has equipped her to truly lead by example.
As Acheampong arrived on campus, she admits she was perceived as shy and studious, and not someone who was a vocal leader. Wanting to change her reputation when presented with a fresh start at Syracuse, Acheampong got involved with the WellsLink program.
When she joined, her actions were driven by a desire to “inspire other people while being a leader on campus,” Acheampong says.
Acheampong’s transformation into an outgoing leader on campus will be on display for all to see during the 19th Annual WellsLink Transitions Ceremony, a graduation-style celebration for students who have successfully transitioned into their second year after participating in WellsLink during their first year.
The ceremony begins at 4 p.m. Friday in Hendricks Chapel, with a reception to follow, and is free to all members of the campus community.
In a moment that Acheampong says would have been unthinkable when she was in high school, she has the honor of introducing the ceremony’s keynote speaker, Marcus Bullock, a renowned justice reform advocate and the CEO and Founder of Flikshop Inc., which allows family members to connect with prisoners who are otherwise isolated from the outside world and a renowned justice reform advocate.
“I never thought I’d ever get an opportunity like this, just because I have that shy background and wasn’t necessarily a big fan of public speaking. I wouldn’t have grown as a person without WellsLink. I’m really excited for the Transitions Ceremony, being able to honor everyone’s accomplishments,” says Acheampong, who is studying civil engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science and minoring in architecture in the School of Architecture.
Check out episode 130 of the “’Cuse Conversations” podcast featuring WellsLink Scholars Josh Ortega ’25 and Sophia Moore ’25. A transcript [PDF] is also available.
All WellsLink Scholars receive a mentor, a sophomore who successfully went through the program and is eager to help the next generation of scholars realize their full potential on campus. Acheampong was paired up with Nadia Nelson ’24, who “has had a huge role in my development.”
Huey Hsiao, associate director of Multicultural Affairs and the Kessler Scholars Program, has led the WellsLink Scholars program for eleven years, and is a big believer in the strong bond that forms between mentor and mentee.
“I thought it was such an incredible program when I came on campus, because of the focus on mentorship. Thinking about the first-year experience as a student’s foundation, we had this program that was centered around students of color who aren’t already receiving support through athletics or state or federally funded programs. It’s been an honor to take over and continue this legacy of supporting our students,” Hsiao says.
The program was so enjoyable that Acheampong opted to return for a second year with WellsLinks’ second-year program. Acheampong and her sophomore peers learn from and network with their cohort members, faculty, staff and alumni to further their leadership abilities through seminars and workshops geared toward academic mentoring, career and major exploration, co-curricular identity development and networking.
“This program is like one big family and I joined the second-year program because of the people. When we all gather together, we realize we have the same goals and ambitions. It’s a terrific opportunity and I want to grow my community and help other people within the program,” Acheampong says.
The WellsLink Leadership Program is sponsored by Multicultural Affairs in the Division of the Student Experience. Launched in 2003, Hsiao proudly points out that WellsLink Scholars have gone on to garner 34 Remembrance Scholars and nine University Scholars. There have been three Student Association (SA) presidents, one SA vice president, and 16 class, school and college marshals.