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From Georgia to Peru: Taryn Wilson

“When you think about people who have ascended to an almost superhuman status in the history of our nation, sometimes you forget that they were just a human being like the rest of us.”

Remembering her favorite experience from the summer of 2013 when she lived in Selma as a Living Democracy student, Taryn Wilson recounted going to a home with great significance to the civil rights movement. Wilson and another Living Democracy student visited Richie Jean Jackson’s home to purchase one of her books and have it signed, also convincing her to give them a tour of her home, a historic meeting place for influential leaders of the movement.

While showing them the house, Jackson pointed out places where Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders strategized the movement as she told stories about their personalities. Wilson said she was able to “occupy the same rooms and hallways used by such a visionary group of people at such a pivotal time.”

Two years after Wilson’s visit to the home, Jackson was played by actress Niecy Nash in the film “Selma.” Another Living Democracy student, Lowery McNeal, was able to be an extra in the film during her summer in the city.

Wilson has not returned to Selma since her summer living there, but she learned a valuable lesson in communication that she has carried with her, the commitment to listening. Instead of listening with solely the mindset of replying, she learned to listen just to understand and build relationships.

She said, “I think that a lot of social capital can be built with your counterparts when they see that you prioritize understanding before you give solutions.”

During her summer in Living Democracy, Wilson participated in the development of a canoe rental program at Old Cahawba Archaeological Park. The project combined her business skills from a major in accounting and her minor in sustainability. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Auburn and continued her education to earn her master’s degree at the University of South Carolina.

Wilson now works as an IT auditor for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Atlanta. The accounting firm has services including taxes, auditing, and consulting. Wilson works in auditing services specifically looking at IT systems. She meets with clients to see how they are using their systems and to make sure they are complying with government standards or with industry standards.

While some may see auditing as boring or complicated, Wilson said she believes, “it’s actually really cool to get to work with Fortune 500 companies and understand the nature of their businesses from the inside.”

Even though her auditing career was professionally rewarding, Wilson said she felt she lacked the opportunity and time to be involved in her community. Soon, Wilson will be swapping her job in Georgia for volunteering in Peru. As a Peace Corps volunteer, she will be working and living in a community in Peru as a Community Economic Development Facilitator.

“I didn’t see any of my work affecting anyone outside of the walls of the various clients that I would work for,” she explained as her reason for turning to the Peace Corps.

She will be helping to grow the economy of the community through whatever means they need, which could be helping businesses plan for the future, starting a microloan program, or teaching financial literacy classes. After her two years in Peru, Wilson said she hopes to continue this type of teaching as a career.

She said she is eager to regain the “giving back” feeling from Living Democracy that she is missing in her life.