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CONTACT: Melanie Mowry Etters
Communication Director

Higgins Aims to Serve in Any Way He Can

By Janeil Jackson

For more than 17 years, Derrick Higgins, 46, has been cooking up Asian cuisine at the Panda Express on the University of Miami campus.

“I’m a cook,” said Higgins. “Whatever dish the customer orders, I am able to make it for them.”

Higgins, with the help of his job coach, landed a job at Panda Express. His goal was to be independent and move into his own place at the age of 29.

Support Coordinator Viveen Brooks said, “When I met Derrick, he was not happy with his situation. We worked to help him get a job at Panda Express and shortly after he was able to move into his own apartment.”

Higgins has a developmental disability and receives services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD). March is Developmental Disability Employment Awareness Month, and APD is highlighting the achievements of people with disabilities.

Higgins has been married for over a year and met his wife, Teresa, at church. The two both work in the University of Miami food court.

Fashion is something Higgins is a fan of and likes to use his extra money to buy new clothes.

“Derrick is a sharp dresser,” said Brooks. “He likes to look nice. If you saw him at church, he looks like Mr. GQ. But he also donates his old clothes to different organizations for people who are in need.”

When not working, Higgins is involved in his church and holds the position of Deacon. He is also involved in the community assisting the homeless and those who are less fortunate.

“I like helping people,” said Higgins. “I like to go out with the other church members and give food and water to those in need.

Higgins who grew up in foster care also likes the assist the less fortunate children in the community with things they may need.

“Growing up I was a foster child,” said Higgins. “I’ve been in their shoes before. If there’s a kid that has a need and it is something I can help them with, I make sure to do what I can to assist.”

APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 58,000 Floridians with severe forms of autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, Phelan-McDermid syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit or call toll free 1-866-APD-CARES (1-866-273-2273).