Helping People Clear Life’s Hurdles

Posted on August 19, 2022

Helping People Clear Life’s Hurdles

A child experiencing traumatic events doesn’t know trauma is occurring. Most children assume that their lives are normal—because they don’t know any different.

The story of Terry Liggins, 35, of Sioux Falls, SD, illustrates this. Originally from north Omaha, NE, Terry succeeded despite growing up in a tough environment. He became a first-generation college student on a track and field scholarship at the University of South Dakota.

Flourishing in the university setting, Terry was elected student body president and won the 60-meter hurdle national championship at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships in 2008. He graduated with a bachelor’s in Criminal Justice and went on to earn a master’s in Public Administration, Nonprofit.

Then a poor choice landed Terry in federal prison for a white-collar crime. After his release in 2016, he began working with an addiction recovery coach who brought up the topic of trauma.

“I learned that some of my experiences in childhood were traumatic events,” he says. In his neighborhood, there were drugs, gangs and violence; he survived his first drive-by shooting by age six; later his younger brother was killed in a drive-by shooting. But Terry also experienced trauma at home.

In 2017 Terry joined the Master Trainer cohort of the South Dakota Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Resiliency Training offered through the CHS Prevention program. He soon discovered how ACEs had affected his own journey.

“I learned that I had six ACEs (out of a possible 10), which meant I had many traumatic experiences,” he says. “Knowing this gave me a clarity about my own upbringing and thereby an understanding of my behaviors, beliefs and mindset.”

“When I was able to learn about the neuroscience, it allowed me to be more comfortable with myself and who I had become,” says Terry. “It also gave me the knowledge that ‘hurt people hurt people.’ I developed compassion and empathy for
my mom and dad so I could forgive them, and not be bitter and blaming.”

All along, Terry had planned to go into a helping profession. “I wanted to be like the people who helped my family when I was young,” he says. Combining this ambition with his new understanding of ACEs and resiliency, he founded The Hurdle Life Foundation, a nonprofit based on the core belief that a trauma informed community is in the best interest of everyone.

The foundation works with at-risk youth from 11-17 and vulnerable adults, providing trauma informed support through mentorship, inspiration and education—working together to help them clear life’s hurdles—as Terry has done himself.