Huntley embraces Mary Ann Wolfe, a student at Wallace State, who was moved by her story.
HANCEVILLE – Lawyer, author and child advocate Liz Huntley delivered an inspirational lecture during a recent visit to Wallace State Community College as part of National Community College month and the college’s Learning Communities project.
Huntley shared her story, “More Than a Bird,” with the Learning Communities classes and spent additional time answering students’ questions. She also held a book signing.
Huntley lives in Clanton, Alabama – the same city where she was once sent to live with her grandmother at the age of 5 – after her father was sent to prison and her mother committed suicide.
From that point forward, Huntley said, her journey was not easy, and she experienced many hardships at such a young and impressionable age. But through all the abuse, poverty and pitfalls she experienced throughout her childhood, Huntley decided she would not let her circumstances define who she was as an adult.
She believes education was a way of getting her out of her circumstances. She describes education as the great equalizer.
“My grandma used to say, ‘People can do a lot to you Elizabeth, but they can never take your mind; that’s yours,’” said Huntley. “’You own that.’”
Huntley believes your mind and what you choose to do with it is your choice.
“I know you were all blessed before I walked in this door because you’re at a college,” said Huntley.
“You’re in an environment where you’re surrounded by advocates that care about you and you have resources and people you can go to, to help you navigate where you want to go as an adult.”
Huntley described life with her grandmother, who believed you go to church every Sunday, you mind your elders, you’re clean and you get an education.
Because of her grandmother, Huntley was sent to preschool to begin that education.
She said she was scared to begin this journey, but she was also embarrassed, ashamed and hung her head down low because of her life. Once she arrived at school, though, she smiled.
“The reason I smiled was the same reason I smiled when I walked in here today,” said Huntley. “Because it was so beautiful. Don’t you know that when somebody takes the time to invest the resources and money to develop an environment for you to learn in that is beautiful, comfortable and inviting like this (Wallace State) it is a true blessing and you should be thankful for it.”
Huntley described that first day of preschool and how she, for first time in her life, felt the nurturing touch of an adult and thrived under it. It was also an escape from the abuse she was receiving at home by a male relative.
Later in life, Huntley spent time with her aunt to avoid the continued abuse during the summers.
One Wednesday in church the pastor spoke from Matthew 6:26, which reads: “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?”
This, she said, translates to if God equips us to be concerned about a bird then he will equip us to take care of our children.
“At that point I sat there with everything that was going on with my life and I questioned whether or not I was better than a bird,” said Huntley. “I questioned whether or not a bird had it better than I did. Then the preacher said this, ‘Know that you’re more than a bird because God will send people to love you.’
She said when the preacher said that, a lightbulb came on and all she could think about was her school and teachers and everyone who had loved her through education.
“People who do things that interact with children have the opportunity to impact their life and in the smallest ways sometimes,” Huntley said.