How it all began
Wells Mountain Initiative (WMI), began in 2005 with the sponsorship of a single scholar from Kopeyia, Ghana. In our first full year of operation in 2006, we increased our support to eight students from Ghana and Senegal. Today, WMI supports scholars from over 47 countries with 268 scholars currently studying and 211 graduate scholars.
In 2005, Wells Mountain Initiative was founded with the idea that we could have an important role to play in helping young people in the developing world by leveling the global playing field for education, opportunity and justice. Our first efforts were aimed at scholarships. From the beginning, we also focused on community service and encouraged our scholars to “give back”.
Through a study abroad program, our now Executive Director, Jordyn Wells had the good fortune of becoming friends with Victoria Galley, a fellow high school student in Ghana. Victoria was one of the most driven students in her village and went out of her way to help others. As young women, Victoria and Jordyn talked about how they could make the world a better place — so more girls could be leaders, so there would be enough resources for everybody. In college, Jordyn returned to Ghana. She quickly discovered that Victoria had not had the same opportunities that she had to pursue these goals. Victoria could not continue to college because her family did not have the funds for tuition. Jordyn asked her dad, Tom Wells, if they could help. Tom said yes and they did.
At the same time, Tom had been working in Africa and Haiti through YMCA World Service, and had met many young people like Victoria, with big hearts and lots of ambition, but who desperately needed help, particularly in pursuing education. Tom quickly realized that much more could be done if he went beyond what he could do personally and sought the support from others, giving them a chance to make these life- changing contributions as well. With the help of his friend and long- time client, David Bolger, a “business bonus” due to Tom was turned into an even bigger gift of start-up money and WMI was formed. The number of students supported grew fast from just Victoria to 4 the next year, then 11…then, well now over 450! Our organization grew further as Carol Wells helped Tom make it successful in those early years.
Over the years, while Tom and Carol kept going with day to day operations of WMI, Jordyn spent nearly a decade working for a number of leading NGOs across Africa. She learned up close the local realities and global policy context of what WMI could do. She developed a deep sense of the importance of the need to be humble and to listen to the expertise of people like Victoria and her now 480 brethren, who are best poised to lead change in their home countries.
In 2018, Jordyn left her other positions and became WMI’s Managing Director, at first part-time. Today, Tom, Carol and Jordyn are on the Board of Directors. Jordyn is our full-time Executive Director, and Tom is very happily relegated to his board chairman post and his “vision thing”, Carol to special projects, including the online auction. Jordyn and a great team are poised to lead the next era of growth at WMI. Our staff has grown to its present seven full and part-time very committed individuals.
WMI not only funds scholarships, but also seeks to build the next generation of change-makers in the most impoverished and under-resourced areas. We have a particular emphasis on women and girls. Through our three main program areas— Education, Global Collective Action and Community Development Grants— we are fostering a small but mighty and growing global community of engaged leaders and social entrepreneurs who are tackling issues such as gender inequity, educational access, health disparities and health care generally, agriculture, climate change, civil society.
As we continue our story, we stand ready to scale our impact. Not only will we fund more scholarships, better facilitate networking and training of our scholars and assist more social entrepreneurship projects, but we will also continue to elevate the voice and leadership of WMI Scholars to be effective change-makers at all levels.