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Even as a fifth-grader, Ayanna Crenshaw ’23 was already perfecting her pitch.

Ayanna Crenshaw ?23 “I cut out magazine ads for the sneakers I wanted, I would write down the price, and then I would try to persuade either my grandmother or my mom to get them for me,” she recalls. “I would list all the things that I’m doing around the house or, academically, to position myself in the best way possible.”

Those shoe campaigns were honing her inherent gift for sales, which has flourished at Carthage.

A marketing major with a minor in public relations, Ayanna came to Carthage from nearby Racine, Wisconsin, seeking to combine her love of sports with a passion for business. She excelled on the track and field team, and, even after being sidelined by injuries, she parlayed natural leadership skills into a role as an assistant coach.

The multitasking extrovert — known around campus as “Yaya” — has also been active in student organizations such as Student Government, business fraternity Pi Sigma Epsilon, Black Student Union, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

She has special gratitude for the supportive network of Pi Sigma Epsilon, and one friend in particular: Zachary Shawhan ’22. He facilitated a conversation with Raven Jemison, executive vice president of business operations for the Milwaukee Bucks, which led Ayanna to a summer internship with the NBA organization’s sales team that has continued throughout this academic year.

She will graduate in December, with aspirations to be vice president of sales for a sports team. As she looks ahead, perhaps Ayanna’s toughest customer will be herself.

“I want to challenge myself by being part of a team that I don’t know about,” she says. “If I make things a little bit harder for myself, I learn more, and I can distinguish myself as an all-star seller.”

That philosophy, she adds, is rooted in an ever-growing sense of self.

“Carthage has enlarged who I think I am as a person,” Ayanna says. “It has sharpened my sense of purpose, which is to lead a life of servant leadership. By that, I mean: How can I serve others as a leader? That question has given meaning to everything I have done so far, and it gives meaning to what I hope to accomplish going forward.”