By Othor Cain,
and Cianna Hope Reeves,
JSU Student Intern,
With the hope of playing professional basketball in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) since childhood, Ayanna Lynn never dreamed she would work for a Fortune 500 company at 24 years old.
Growing up in a poverty-stricken environment where economic mobility and education are the worst in the state, Lynn’s hard-working and motivational family made sure they set a positive example for her to follow.
Throughout childhood, she witnessed her grandfather construct houses in the Delta as a contractor and became inspired to build. Too young to assist her grandfather, she assembled puzzle pieces to hone her creativity skills.
After growing of age, Lynn officially started preparing for her career; little did she know what was in store.
“I started to work for my grandfather and I would put all of the wood together; but, at that point, I was still focused on my childhood dreams of getting to the WNBA – that was my dream,” said Lynn. Having the passion to give back, the sports enthusiast, believed she could only do so by playing professional ball, because then she would have money and be able to do it with ease. However, after guidance from her grandfather, whom she has always looked up to, she changed her perspective on philanthropy work.
“He told me ‘you don’t have to go to the WBNA to give back, you know you can give back to your community by being an engineer,” she said. At this point her grandfather saw her ability to design, to construct, to imagine. He also saw her passion.
Throughout high school and college, Lynn was a star player on the court.
After graduating from Gentry High School, she received a full athletic scholarship to Itawamba Community College and graduated with an associate’s degree in engineering. She continued to play basketball while attaining her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at Jackson State University – holding on to both passions.
Once her grandfather realized her yearn to aid the community, he stressed that she could be a helping hand to her hometown by becoming an engineer. He then introduced her to the multimillion dollar car plant in Canton, Miss. – Nissan – a company widely known for its automobiles and aiding families and children in the area, specifically disadvantaged youths.
In Lynn’s junior year of undergraduate studies, she applied for several internships to make her way into the company, however, her grade point average would not allow her to qualify for the opportunity.
Instead of allowing the obstacle to prevent her from moving forward to achieve her career aspirations, she took a different route by becoming an employee of the company and working as a technician. “I was determined not to let this stop me,” she said. “I’m a testament that you should never give up…all though things can sometimes look bleak, you must not quit.”
After two months of working as a technician, and expressing her desire to grow with the company, Nissan decided to fully fund her master’s degree program at Jackson State University. “They saw my determination and commitment,” she said. “I was very impressed at the fact that they wanted to see me grow and make better decisions.”
In April 2018, Lynn graduated with her master’s degree in civil engineering and is currently working as a process engineer for Trim & Chassis, which she refers to as “the dog” of the plant. “We make sure that everything that we send out to the customers is of the finest quality,” said Lynn.
Her advice for aspiring engineers is to stay focused and devoted when times or requirements become tough.
“You have to be committed. It is very time consuming and a lot of math and science, because as an engineer you are a problem solver. It’s tough, especially for women, because it’s a man’s world,” she said.
In order to boost the development of effective youth in her own community, she shares her story with adolescents and teenagers through Empowering Youth, a mentorship program she launched in the Delta.
Due to her love of Nissan and giving back, Lynn said she has found her home away from home and she is there to stay.
“I am blessed to be able to work here. Nissan is doing everything I dreamed about doing, and I am happy to be a part of that. I don’t see myself going anywhere,” she voiced with a smile.
Lynn is delighted to share her story as part of Nissan’s 15-year anniversary in Canton, Miss.
In 2001, Nissan began a journey with its Mississippi partners to build one of the most advanced manufacturing facilities in the world, in the heart of the Magnolia State.
Fifteen years after opening its doors in 2003, Nissan is proud to make some of the finest vehicles in America at the Nissan Canton plant. Nissan is committed to building a strong diverse team and has created more than 25,000 jobs statewide.
There are no signs of slowing down.
Company leadership recently announced the 4 millionth vehicle to roll off the assembly line – a Nissan Cargo Van. The Canton plant is the only plant worldwide that makes the large vans for Nissan. The automaker sold about 18,000 NV vans in the United States last year, according to company figures. To meet demand for the NV, the Japanese automaker added a second shift in April. About 250 jobs will be created or retained to staff the second shift. About 6,400 Nissan employees and contractors work at the Canton complex.
To offer a visual, Steve Marsh, vice president of manufacturing, Nissan Canton Vehicle Assembly Plant, said you could line up all four million vehicles, bumper to bumper, to reach Tokyo and back. The 14 million gallons of paint used on the vehicles could fill 21 Olympic-sized swimming pools, he said.
Nissan donated the 4 millionth vehicle, a 2018 Nissan Cargo Van, to the Madison County-based charity, Our Daily Bread, a subgroup of Stewpot Community Services in Jackson.
To date, the company has contributed more than 15 million dollars to charitable organizations.