SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s a name many in KELOLAND are familiar with: Terri Liggins broke many records during his athletic career as a hurdler at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. Now he’s using his skill and his life story to help launch a new company with a big mission.
The Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce holds dozens of ribbon cuttings every year. It’s a ceremony that’s always filled with celebration, but the official welcoming of the Hurdle Life Coach Foundation into the Sioux Falls community came with a great deal of emotion from its founder.
“This is more than work, this is how I’ve decided to use the rest of my life,” Liggins said.
It’s a purpose Terry Liggins found after walking a precarious path.
“Coming back into this community with felony convictions, it has been an uphill climb to get to this point in my life today,” Liggins said.
In 2014 he plead guilty to tax fraud and spent 14 months in federal prison, a conviction tied up with his battle with addiction.
“But I’ve made it here. I know that setback sets the stage for come back, I know that persistence beats resistance. Now I’m here today as the leader of this organization knowing what’s possible with good mentorship, resilience and faith,” Liggins said.
Now he’s sharing that determination through the Hurdle Life Coach Foundation.
“We come along side of people as they’re going through challenges and obstacles and provide encouragement,” Liggins said.
In April the foundation launched the pilot of the C.H.A.N.G.E. program.
“It stands for Challenging Historically Accepted Notions for Greater Expectations,” Liggins said.
“The main thing really would be improving and bettering yourself and the decisions you’ve been making. I was locked up and a lot of the stuff I read in self-help books, getting out and hearing that stuff again and hearing how it helped him and his past, giving me an outside perspective because he was kind of in the same spot that I was in,” C.H.A.N.G.E student Silas Puplinski said.
“What sets us apart is that I’ve been through what I’m helping people through. Its called being a credible messenger; often times we have people trying to solve solutions to problems that they never faced. Not here at Hurdle Life, I know exactly what its like to be in a single parent home, a first generation college student, be a minority, deal with this race and justice issue, and still find a way to have peace of mind, peace of heart and hope,” Liggins said.
“One of the lessons he taught was be a diamond. The lessons was basically saying, go the extra mile, and that’s what I’ve been doing every day,” Wuol Tol said.
The first 15 students just graduated from the C.H.A.N.G.E program after referrals from school districts, juvenile detention centers, family members and more.
“For our youth, it’s really common school based challenges: truancy issues, peer association, healthy boundaries,” Liggins said.
“It is a diversion program, which is amazing to swim upstream and start doing some of that diversion and getting those messages across,” Hurdle Life Foundation assistant Kyriel Clark said.
Clark started as a volunteer with Hurdle Life Coach and quickly became a full time part of carrying out its mission.
“Getting that language about empathy, emotional intelligence, the skills for getting a job, the skills for filling out a FAFSA, how to set a smart goal, very practical things that can be implemented today,” Clark said.
“So often we assume less of people. We don’t really truly realize a person’s full potential,” Liggins said. “One of our beliefs at Hurdle Life is that human potential is infinite. We believe that whatever goal you set for yourself you can accomplish that. So whatever goal you have set for yourself, you can accomplish that.”
Liggin’s life is proof of just that; living out a lesson that speaks volumes to the lives he’s working to change.
The C.H.A.N.G.E. program meets at Tre Ministries three afternoons a week. It is free for high school students to enroll in thanks to support from donations and grants like the Sioux Falls Community Foundation.
Liggins hopes to offer C.H.A.N.G.E. programs for middle schoolers and young adults as the Hurdle Life Foundation continues to grow.