Damon Jiggetts and Peter Paul Development Center
H5RVA: Damon, I just read your annual report and am blown away by the success of your programs and your vision for the future. How did this all come about? When did Peter Paul know, as an organization, that big things were happening and lives were being changed in some of the city’s most challenged neighborhoods?
Damon: Amy, discomfort provokes change. Only a few years ago, PPDC was in an uncomfortable situation as an organization. We had significant challenges, none of which we saw as insurmountable. It is during these times that organizations are eliminated or evolve. Giving the growing roles we filled in service to our students and families, we chose the latter. We chose to focus on what made us unique and presented the greatest value proposition for our supporters and to those we served. We chose to evolve. We chose to serve as a change agent through education. As more and more families found their way to PPDC for our intensive academic programs, we were compelled to not only educate the children, but to engage the families and empower the community. With a culture of authentic relationships guiding our work, trust was established and our families began to realize their potential as positive contributors to their households and community. We’ve seen what discomfort can do to people who lack hope. It’s what we do with the few blessings we have in those moments, that sets our course for the change we want in our lives. PPDC has been walking alongside those we serve since its inception in 1979. We just recently embraced it wholeheartedly in the last few years and we know it makes God smile.
H5RVA: Richmond seems to be coming around to understanding that all of our neighborhoods are RVA, all of our schools matter, and the pride in our city is finally reaching areas that need it the most. How did you come to be on the front lines of this long overdue progress?
Damon: I’ve served our high potential RVA communities in some capacity for over 20 years. I’ve seen the best of who we are and the worst of who we are. I’ve seen dissension among our leaders and I’ve seen amazing synergies exist across sectors. I can see true intentions coming from a mile away and as a representative of the wonderful folks I serve, I’m obligated to challenge agendas that don’t have our people ahead of the politics. I’m just as comfortable at a Board room table as I am on the block. My personal and professional experiences have prepared me to see things from all angles and contribute diverse perspectives to our work. I govern with my heart and execute with my head. I listen hard and respond thoughtfully on behalf of those I serve. I’m on the front lines, because this is what my God intended. It’s my passion, my purpose and my profession. I truly believe PPDC is the hub of even greater things in store for this community and I’m blessed to serve as Chief Cheerleader. As I see it, I’m supposed to be here, to ensure that our leaders work collaboratively and transparently with their constituents, while PPDC prepares our students, parents and residents to be fully engaged in uplifting this community from the inside up.
H5RVA: What’s really hard about your work?
Damon: Scaling up. We’ve experienced great success and grown tremendously over the last few years. Our greatest challenges are determining the appropriate rate of growth, scope of growth and sustainability of growth. We’re finishing up a $5.5 million campaign, which will allow for further growth in student enrollment, pay for a recently completed capital expansion, eliminate debt and begin an endowment. We’ve got tremendous philanthropic support and the data to justify the investments. What’s hard is to be responsible in our growth and not overextend ourselves. There’s so much we could do and want to do, but quality must be our yardstick. We believe that what we offer has great impact and when you know that what you’re doing is working, the inclination is to do more of it as quickly as possible. We’ll move and grow, but not without a well thought out and deliverable plan.
H5RVA: How can people get involved with Peter Paul Development Center?
Damon: Volunteer, advocate, donate. We welcome volunteers in various capacities. Mentoring one of our students is always a great option, but if you and/or your group would like to carry out a service project, there’s a place for that as well. We need more individuals telling our story throughout RVA. Our volunteers and donors are our greatest advocates. Once you experience PPDC, you’ll have your own story to tell. We host tours throughout the year and we’d love to share more about our community and programs with you. All of the details can be found via our website at www.peterpauldevcenter.org or call us at (804)780-1195.
H5RVA: What are you going to do with this High Five?
Damon: I don’t know. What’s customary? Maybe you’ve got some not so customary ideas as well. I’m thrilled to be honored in this way. PPDC is a wonderful organization, full of passionate individuals working towards collective impact. The High Five belongs to them. As Chief Cheerleader, I simply tell their stories and applaud.