For years, Boston resident Collette Divitto found her happy place in her parents’ kitchen.
Starting at age 15, she spent hours baking up a storm, honing her craft and discovering that baking was both her passion and something she excelled at.
For someone who finds themselves so naturally gifted at something they love, it seems only logical to assume that jobs would be lining up upon reaching adulthood. Unfortunately, Divitto has Down syndrome—so when she went around applying for jobs at age 22, she got turned down at every chance.
The rejections were devastating, especially given all of the effort that Divitto had put into her application process. According to an email she sent to Uplift, she had arrived at each of her job interviews with a plate of the cookies that her friends and family had raved about in the past, and was still turned away at the end of her interviews.
“Many people who interviewed me for jobs said I was really nice but not a good fit for them,” Divitto wrote. “It was really hurtful and I felt rejected a lot.”
Luckily, she refused to let the rejections get her down. Even as she wondered in the back of her mind how many of the rejections had been due to her genetic condition, she went about proving all of the other bakeries wrong—and now, she’s gone above and beyond in proving that she’s got what it takes.
With her mom and her sister helping out, Divitto started her own bakery, taking online orders from grocery stores. She called her business Collettey’s and made it her mission to thrive as a baker in a world that hadn’t given her an opportunity to succeed.
Her story was eventually picked up, going viral when CBS News shared her profile with the world. Now, she’s busy running her business as both a successful operation and as a way to raise awareness for the Down syndrome community; instead of letting the rejections get her down, she’s decided to change the world around her.
On her website, Divitto has revealed that she now spends some of her time traveling the country to raise awareness for the employment statistics among the disabled community. A whopping 82 percent of work-capable adults with disabilities are unable to find jobs to support themselves—and her mission is to change that.
Divitto still spends plenty of time baking, filling the orders she gets for those delicious cookies she used to bring on job interviews (which she revealed are made with cinnamon and a few other secret ingredients to give them their real spark). She’s also working to gain the opportunity to head down to Washington, D.C., though, where she plans to propose a written inclusionary policy and the elimination of the “sub-minimum wage” currently in effect. With businesses legally able to apply for waivers to pay disabled workers as little as 4 cents an hour, even the most “well-meaning” companies offering employment to disabled adults have created a stigma and exclusionary environment that Divitto wants to change.
In addition to her bakery, Collette now runs a non-profit as well to provide vocational training for disabled adults.
What an honor to meet and speak to the CT Youth Leadership Program, #CTYLP, at #UCONN, sponsored by the Dept. of Dev….
“Collette is working with interested partners for production locations across the country, all of which are culinary training organizations for people with disabilities whose graduates cannot find jobs,” her website explains.
With that kind of drive, she’s doing more to change the world than most will in a lifetime!