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Rejected from job after job, this baker with Down syndrome opened her own shop instead.

'Never give up. Don't let people make you sad or feel rejected. Stay motivated and follow your dreams.'

Rejected from job after job, this baker with Down syndrome opened her own shop instead.

Ever since she was 15 years old, Collette Divitto has been baking up a storm in her family's kitchen.

"I always baked after school and on the weekends," explains Divitto in an email. "I loved baking for my family for holidays."

Photo via Collettey's Cookies/Facebook, used with permission.


She quickly realized she wanted to make a career out of her passion for baking, and when she was 22, she started applying to jobs in Boston.

To each interview, she'd bring samples of the cookies that her family and friends had raved about. Unfortunately, none of the places that interviewed her offered her a job; for all her hard work, Divitto mostly saw a lot of doors being closed in her face.

"Many people who interviewed me for jobs said I was really nice but not a good fit for them," writes Divitto. "It was really hurtful and I felt rejected a lot."

While being turned down for jobs isn't unusual for a lot of young people, Divitto wondered if — in her case — she wasn't getting offered jobs because she has Down syndrome.

While the rejection was disheartening, it did not dissuade her from following her dreams. She rolled up her sleeves and got to work.

With the help of her mom and sister, Divitto started her own cookie company called Collettey's. They soon received their first order for her famous cookies (chocolate chip with cinnamon and other secret ingredients) from a grocery store in Boston called Golden Goose Market.

Photo via Collettey's Cookies/Facebook, used with permission.

Divitto began making 100 cookies a week for the Golden Goose, then — thanks to coverage by CBS News — orders began pouring in from all over the country. Today, Divitto is 26 and by mid-December had posted that Collettey's is up to 10,000 orders to be filled.

"My biggest success so far is how big my company is growing, which means I can start hiring people with and without disabilities," Divitto says.

Photo via Collettey's Cookies/Facebook, used with permission.

Right now, Collettey's staff consists of Divitto, her mom, and her sister as well as some amazing volunteers from Golden Goose Market who help bake and ship all the cookies. As the business grows, she'll need more staff very soon.

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report, 10.7% of people with a disability who are actively looking for work were unemployed in 2015. That's twice the unemployment rate of people without a disability. In light of those figures, Divitto plans to offer as many job opportunities to people in the the disabled community as she can.

Divitto hopes her accomplishments inspire others to pursue their dreams any way they can, even if it means taking a nontraditional route.

Photo via Collettey's Cookies/Facebook, used with permission.

"I never raised her looking at her as if she had limitations," Divitto's mom, Rosemary Alfredo, told ABC News. "I just said, 'We all have them. We all have things we're good at, and we all have things we’re not good at.' You can call them disabilities. We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. We don't focus on that."

Or, as Divitto says: "Never give up. Don't let people make you sad or feel rejected. Stay motivated and follow your dreams."

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.