JTC 24: Unstoppable Drive

Jhalen Wells dedicates himself to entrepreneurship and service

A young man stands on a plaza in front of concrete steps.

This story is part of the 2024 Journey to Commencement series, which celebrates the pinnacle of the academic year by highlighting University of Mississippi students and their outstanding academic and personal journeys from college student to college graduate.

As a high school senior, Jhalen Wells faced a tough decision. Would the Clarksdale student accept a football scholarship to Jones Community College or embrace the opportunities of a full academic scholarship to the University of Mississippi?

Passionate about entrepreneurship and drawn to service, his ultimate decision was informed by his family's guidance and a drive to achieve big dreams – which he knew he could do at Ole Miss.

"I was a general business major and then maybe thought I wanted to be a doctor," Wells said. "I ended up starting a clothing brand my sophomore year, got into debt, started another small business and started going into marketing and all the other stuff to promote it.

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Jhalen Wells gave up a chance to play football at Jones Community College to come to the University of Mississippi. But he volunteered as a student athletics trainer for the Ole Miss football team and even go to play at running back in the 2021 Grove Bowl. Submitted photo

"Then I heard about IMC (integrated marketing communications), and I just felt like it all finally fit into place."

Wells' first small business was a clothing brand that promoted mental health awareness. He made hoodies and launched a diversity campaign to promote it.

"With mental health issues, it doesn't matter what the color of your skin is, religion, background or anything," he said. "We all may deal with mental health issues.

"I had about 20 students meet me in the residential parking garage for a photo shoot, and I raised about $3,000 and donated it to the National Alliance on Mental Illness."

In the School of Journalism and New Media's IMC program, one of the first classes Wells took was IMC 304: Account Planning, with Chris Sparks, an instructional associate professor. They quickly developed a rapport.

"The first time I met Jhalen, he was sitting on the front row of my class and came up and talked to me afterward," Sparks said. "And I started to find out some of the remarkable things that he had started on his own and what his story was about.

"He often found me outside of class, asking me for input on his philanthropic efforts and his entrepreneurial efforts."

A four-sport athlete in high school, Wells volunteered to work as a student athletics trainer with the Ole Miss football team. After being around the team for a while, he volunteered as a walk-on and got to play running back in the 2021 Grove Bowl.

He enjoys singing and songwriting and has performed at a few venues around Oxford.

A passionate volunteer and dedicated community member, Wells' energy extends beyond his entrepreneurial activities. During his time at the university, he has been a part of the Grisham-McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and a Luckyday scholar.

Wells says he's motivated to give back to the Oxford community and the next generation of Ole Miss students. He has volunteered with Doors of Hope and on campus. He has also worked with elementary and middle school students through the Office of Pre-College Programs' Rebel Quest program and with incoming freshman students through JumpStart.

It doesn't matter what the color of your skin is, religion, background or anything. We all may deal with mental health issues."

"When we were coming out of the major lockdowns of COVID, I reached out to Doors of Hope to see what they needed," Wells said. "They told me they needed a lot of household sanitary items.

"So I went around town, I went by the mayor's office, the chancellor's office, different organizations around campus, even nonprofits outside in the community and had a drive outside of RC South one Saturday afternoon."

The drive collected two truckloads of supplies for the organization. Next, Wells organized a backpack drive for the Tupelo School District, which collected some 100 backpacks for students there, and a coat drive that provided more than 90 winter coats for students at Oxford's Bramlett Elementary School.

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Jhalen Wells (third from right) organized a coat drive, which collected more than 90 winter coats for students at Bramlett Elementary School in Oxford. Submitted photo

His hard work was later recognized during his junior year, when he was invited to present his projects to the university's senior leadership at one of their meetings.

"My mom, professors and directors of organizations that I am a part of showed up while I presented," Wells said. "It was cool to have that moment."

Karrye Tynes, assistant director for access and recruiting initiatives for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, has seen firsthand how Wells has balanced his leadership roles.

"During the MOST Conference, Jhalen unquestionably embodied leadership skills; it comes naturally," Tynes said. "Over time, I've had the pleasure of watching his confidence and abilities mature even more. There is never a task that I have given Jhalen that he's turned down or been able to fulfill.

"His passion for working with students and capitalizing on each opportunity to establish great relationships with the students and peers during the conferences is commendable."

Wells has his sights on graduate school and plans to enroll in the higher education program at Ole Miss this fall. In the long term, he plans to venture into real estate with a vision to revolutionize university housing development.

"I don't have any regrets about my time here," he said. "I had my ups and downs, but I feel like it prepared me to be ready for what's to come in the next chapter."

See more photos from Jhalen Wells' Journey to Commencement

By

MacKenzie Ross, School of Journalism and New Media

Campus

Office, Department or Center

Published

May 12, 2024

Topics

Jhalen Wells

A young man stands beside a sign reading Luckyday.

Jhalen Wells was a Luckyday scholar at the University of Mississippi. Submitted photo

A young man wearing graduation regalia holds a red pennant reading University of Mississippi.

Graduating with a degree in integrated marketing communications, Jhalen Wells plans to enroll in the Ole Miss master's program in higher this fall. Submitted photo

Fraternity members gather for a group photo.

Jhalen Wells (front row, third from right) is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Submitted photo

Portrait of a young man wearing a black T-shirt.

Jhalen Walls hopes to venture into real estate to fulfill a vision to revolutionize university housing development. Photo by Srijita Chattopadhyay/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services