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Goodwill Program Helps Woman With Disabilities Land A Dream Job

By Kathy Walsh

DENVER (CBS4) - A young woman is thrilled to have earned a job at the Denver Zoo. She is a success story of Goodwill's Career Development Program.

Madisyn Higgins
(credit: CBS)

Madisyn Higgins has a developmental disability, but it doesn't stop her from working hard. This summer she showed up early, always with a smile, and so impressed her bosses that they want her around permanently.

Washing dishes isn't drudgery, it is part of a dream come true for Madisyn. She may be the most enthusiastic member of the cleanup crew at the zoo's Samburu Grill.

Madisyn Higgins
(credit: CBS)

She's always on the go, always with a giggle.

"I love it here, it's fun," the 20-year-old told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

Madisyn was placed at the zoo through Goodwill with help from a partnership with the Colorado Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and Denver Public Schools. She had support from her Goodwill job coach, Vanessa Cruz. The goal was to gain real work experience and permanent employment.

Jessica Hudgins Smith
Jessica Hudgins Smith (credit: CBS)

"Where they can live independently and earn a steady paycheck, just like anyone else," explained Jessica Hudgins Smith, PR & Digital Media Manager, Goodwill Industries of Denver.

Madisyn impressed her supervisor, Connor Eldredge.

"She just goes through the day very positive and is always working hard," said Eldredge, assistant food and beverage operations manager with Service System Associates (SSA), the company that operates concessions at the zoo.

"They like that I'm friendly and mature and independent," said Madisyn.

So much so, she was offered a permanent job.

Steven Higgins
Steven Higgins (credit: CBS)

"Oh my gosh, she just jumped for joy," said Madisyn's proud dad, Steven Higgins. "She gets to have something that is her own, her own identity. Now she (sees it as) there's nothing that she can't do."

For Madisyn, the job at the zoo is a major accomplishment and a step closer to independence.

Madisyn Higgins
(credit: CBS)

"I like making money, I like that I work hard, I like being successful," she said.

Her father said Madisyn was so excited to go to work at the zoo, she would sing while getting ready. Her song of choice was "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," a fitting selection.


Kathy Walsh is CBS4's Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 for more than 30 years. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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