CNS’s Vaughn beats the statistics, tough upbringing to become engineer, community leader

Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS) recently took part in the Knoxville Area Urban League Awards Gala, which recognizes achievement in empowering communities and individuals. CNS supports the good deeds of this organization and so do its employees.

One of those employees is Y-12 Facility Safety Engineer Syreeta Vaughn, who is president of the Knoxville Area Urban League Young Professionals. She recently received a Heroes in the Movement Award at the National Urban League Young Professionals conference. Vaughn is personally invested because of her background. She says she beat the odds on her way to becoming a successful young professional.

“I’m honored, but I’m most proud that I am not my statistic,” Vaughn said. “Statistically, I wasn’t supposed to succeed. Being a statistic doesn’t mean you have an excuse for failing. I am an American who believed that if I studied and worked hard, I could do anything, be anything.”

Vaughn said, “I was born in extreme poverty in a single-parent home. When I was in elementary school, my mother was on the way to losing custody of my brother and me. We lived in deplorable conditions.”

Despite that, Vaughn worked hard to overcome obstacles in her life and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in geology from Florida State University and a master’s in hydrology and industrial engineering from the University of Tennessee.

She landed at Y-12 in 2005 and, after a series of jobs, is now a facility safety engineer responsible for documents that detail safety procedures at Y-12’s nuclear facilities.

She credits the support of her community and extended family for helping her through tough times. “I don’t look like what I’ve been through because I had people around me who loved me and wanted me to succeed,” she said.

She’s now the mother to two “pretty awesome” kids — Nia, 6, and Jada, 2. Her advice? “Work hard and always do your best,” she said. If you do that, when tomorrow comes “you’ll be where you’re supposed to be.”

Vaughn continues to pay if forward with her involvement with Knoxville Area Urban League Young
Professionals, which plugs young people into the community with opportunities for volunteering, local politics, housing and jobs, and conferences.

In 15 years, Vaughn plans to be a Y-12 senior manager who will have an impact on safety.

“I’ll be a change agent in ensuring people, facilities, and the environment are safe,” says Vaughn. “But today, I have to work hard and do my best, and then tomorrow I will be where I’m supposed to be.”