When Jody Riggs was a teenager, he attended a conference about overseas Christian humanitarian work. “I decided I wanted to go overseas and work with people who didn’t have advantages we had,” says Jody. Later, he decided to become a prosthetist.
Jody grew up in Scarborough, the first son of Jamaican parents who knew each other in high school. His mother moved to Canada first, stayed with cousins in Montreal and then returned home and worked in the office of a bauxite mine where his father was a heavy-machinery operator. “I feel that’s when they really bonded, but she had aspirations to go to school,” says Jody, explaining that his father followed her to Canada. His mother studied business and education, and in 1977 started teaching at Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology, where she remains. His father has been a plant manager and supervisor in heavy machinery in food, pharmaceuticals, finance and automotive industries.
I want my kids to not feel there are barriers to achieve what
they want to be.
Jody describes his upbringing as protected. His mother drove him and his younger brother to a Christian private school every day. He played in a Christian hockey league and attended Christian summer camps. Their church community became their family. At home, they enjoyed Caribbean music, and Jamaican foods on holidays.
After grade 10, Jody transferred to a public alternative school. “I knew I was in a bubble, but happy to get out of it. I knew who I was and what I believed.” His friends were mostly second-generation immigrants, but he encountered racism. “My philosophy is I have been treated differently, but I’m not going to let that stop me. Instead, I try to acknowledge those situations and use them as a motivation to excel.”
A year at Bible college was followed by “an eye-opening experience” in university, including Varsity rugby. “Imagine this kid from a Jamaican Christian conservative home playing rugby with guys who are drinking, and women, and all sorts of stuff. That was quite a shock.” He was teased, but accepted because he was skilled. Jody became captain and made the Ontario all-star team. After playing one year in Kingston, he moved to Victoria where for three years he worked at a bank and played rugby. “My dream was to make the national team; my goal was to go as far as I could.” He didn’t make the team, but he did meet his wife while volunteering at the hospital where she was an orthotist. Jody earned his B.A. in kinesiology and health sciences at York University. His parents are proud of him and his brother, a FedEx paralegal law clerk. Pursuing higher education was a given. “That desire was clearly articulated!”
Jody and his wife both found jobs in Halifax in 2017. They have three kids with “some affinity” for their Jamaican heritage. “My goal is making them feel comfortable in their skin; I want my kids to not feel there are barriers to achieve what they want to be.” The family is active in their downtown Dartmouth neighbourhood. “We’re blessed to be there. Rarely are your hopes realized, but they have been for us.”