Tia’s Moment


“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too?” C.S. Lewis

Tia showed up to the first full day of Alabama Girls State, a week-long mock government and leadership program in Tuscaloosa, AL, with the intent of learning about leadership and legislature. Tia never could have anticipated the moments that followed.

Liz Huntley speaks nationwide to audiences of all ages about her life journey described in her memoir More Than A Bird. The book – and her speeches – detail how she triumphed over the impoverished and abuse-filled circumstances of her youth because of one extraordinary moment in her first-grade class when her teacher spoke words of hope into her life. As Liz spoke on Monday morning at Girls State about her “game-changing moment”, Tia was simultaneously experiencing her own.

If C.S. Lewis is right, and friendship is born at the moment when one [woman] says to another “What! You too?”, Liz and Tia advanced from strangers to friends in a matter of seconds. Liz’s every word resonated deeply with Tia, and she began to draw parallels between her life story and Liz’s. As soon as Liz finished speaking, Tia rushed to introduce herself despite hearing the instruction to return to her seat. Tia needed to meet the woman whose story both inspired her and so deeply related to her own journey.

Liz and Tia conversed for several joyful minutes and connected over their commonalities. Tia explained how she had earlier suffered from low self-esteem but felt a renewed confidence upon hearing that a woman in circumstances like her own could rise above.

One week later, Tia wrote a public “thank you” to Liz on Facebook:

I finally realized it was okay for me to be out of my comfort zone- after all, that’s how we grow- and the relationships I formed along the way were so worth being uncomfortable for a day or two. Thank you for sharing your story, for using humble beginnings that were far from perfect to illustrate the power of believing in yourself and for working hard for what you want. I truly aspire to be like you. I hold your book close to my heart and will never forget the values that you have taught through it. Thank you for spreading hope, because that’s exactly what you did.”

For this one purpose Hope Institute exists: to impact, inspire, and empower.

Meet Liz

The stimulus – or spark you might say – that ultimately brought Hope Institute to life has its roots in a first-grade classroom in Clanton, Alabama. Today our mission is simple: we want to help teachers and administrators teach students the intangibles of character. We hope to excite students to want to do better in school and life, much like Liz Huntley’s first grade teacher did all those years ago.

20160428, Elizabeth L. Huntley, Board of Trustee, Auburn Magazine,


Meet Liz:

Liz is our Co-Founder and CEO. She also is a full-time lawyer, a dedicated child advocate, a nationally renowned motivational speaker and published author – all with two daughters, a son, and a husband. She’s basically superwoman.

But possibly most notably, she has a phenomenal life story.

Growing up in a nightmarish childhood with all odds against her and influences of abuse, neglect, and drug addiction, Liz should never have become who she is today. No human imagination could have predicted it. Her life-changing moment came on her first day of first grade when her teacher spoke the emboldening words, “Elizabeth, you’re going to be the brightest student I ever have.” Those words produced a powerful wake of hope whose current has proven unstoppable.

Because of that day, Liz has since chosen courage over fear, faith over limitations, and perseverance over apathy.

She had the dream to bring a new voice into the character education conversation. And this is why Hope Institute exists.