AUBURN, Ala – ReNari Wells is bound and determined to stand out from her classmates at Auburn University.
While some academically successful high school students struggle to find the same success in college, Wells is resolute about being just as successful at Auburn as she was at Selma High School.
“Going into high school, I had the goal of being the best,” she said. “My grandma always inspired me to be the best that I could be. I only wish she was here to see I accomplished the goal of being valedictorian.
“Being the best out of a class of more than 200 was a task, but with prayers, hard work and dedication, I did it.”
Wells’ grandmother died unexpectedly just two weeks before Selma’s graduation ceremony this summer.
“My grandma was my biggest inspiration and motivation to be who I am today,” Wells recalled. “She loved all of her grandchildren and wanted all of us to be successful. She looked to me to be a role model for my younger siblings. She always encouraged me when things got hard and pushed me to be better.
“All my family supports me: my mom, dad, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins, but there is nothing like a grandmother’s love.”
Wells not only finished at the top of her class, but she did it while simultaneously taking classes at Wallace Community College Selma. Additionally, she was a pivotal member of the Lady Saints basketball team, which made it to this year’s Class 6A Southwest Regional Finals.
Wells likely won’t be the last Alabama valedictorian to attend Auburn. The university recently announced that it will guarantee admission and give priority consideration for scholarships to any valedictorian or salutatorian from an accredited Alabama school with 50 or more graduates.
Wells said she looked to former Selma classmate Jalen Johnson, who not only graduated in 2017 as valedictorian, but also participated in the dual enrollment program that allows high school students to earn college credit while still in high school.
“He inspired me to be the greatest,” she explained. “When I learned about the program, I wanted to have a degree as well as a diploma. Balancing college classes and high school classes along with basketball, was a task, but as long as I put my education first, I made sure my work was done, even if it took all night.”
Such devotion paid off for Wells, literally. She earned a number of academic scholarships—amounting to $67,500 for four years and $18,000 for this year—that could reap her financial freedom for her time at Auburn, including the All Auburn Leadership Scholarship at $6,000 for four years, the Dudley University Scholarship at $20,000 for four years, the General Annual Scholarship at $20,000 for four years, the Auburn University Board of Trustees Scholarship at $1,500 and the College of Sciences and Mathematics Scholarship at $20,000 for four years.
“I am so grateful for receiving these scholarships. Words cannot express the way I feel,” she said. “After finding out what I received, tears of joy began falling from my eyes.”
One aspect of high school that Wells couldn’t dismiss in lieu of stellar academics was basketball. She said she’s been playing ball “ever since I was able to dribble one.” Wells grew up playing pick-up games with her male cousins and first joined a school team in eighth grade. An injury kept her from playing in ninth grade, but she recovered and returned to the court for the remainder of high school.
Now anytime Wells picks up a basketball, it’s merely for fun, which she vows she still has between classes and working nearly full-time at the Walmart in Selma. She’s also in the process of debuting her own clothing line.
Wells said she considered graphic design as a career path when she was in sixth grade, but plans changed. Her passion for apparel design never faded, however. She has dubbed her brand Lega€y. She said a lion logo represents leadership, as the lion is the king of the jungle, and the € represents global currency.
“It’s not about money, but I want my clothes to impact people everywhere,” Wells said.
She plans to start with a broad selection of shirts, hoodies, tracksuits and more and eventually get into making custom suits.
“I want my brand to grow and be unique with a special impact—a legacy indeed,” she said.
Wells said she chose Auburn over other colleges, such as Louisiana State University, Alabama State University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Alabama, because “of the way I felt after the campus tour.”
“I loved the environment and the hospitality. The campus is amazing,” she said. “The fields I want to enter are at Auburn, so it was the best choice for me.”
Wells is on the pre-physical therapy track in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, where she hopes to meet a few admirable goals: to maintain a 4.0 grade point average, make the President’s List and graduate at the top of her class.
“I have high hopes for my future endeavors at Auburn,” she said.