About the Premier's Awards
Launched in 1992 to mark the 25th anniversary of Ontario colleges, the Premier’s Awards honour outstanding college graduates from Ontario’s 24 public colleges. It is a provincial awards program created by the government to recognize the important economic and social contributions college graduates make to Ontario.
The awards are presented annually in seven categories:
- Creative Arts and Design
- Community Services
- Health Sciences
- Recent Graduate
George Brown College has a fantastic history with the Premier's Awards and proudly celebrates the achievements of our nominees and our winners.
George Brown’s 2022 Premier’s Awards Nominees
Nominee: Ray Williams, Managing Director & Vice Chairman — Financial Markets at National Bank Financial
Program and Grad Year: Culinary Arts, 2011
Ray Williams’ career began in London’s financial district. He brought his young family to Canada, where he is currently the Managing Director and Vice Chairman of National Bank Financial.
Observing that few Black people held senior positions in finance, Williams began working to change that narrative as a quiet “social justice warrior” and role model.
Believing that success should be used to benefit others, he co-founded the Black Opportunities Fund to address systemic inequities in access to capital and support. He says, “cooking is my meditation” and pursued a culinary arts program with the same passion, learning and connection.
Category: Community Services
Nominee: Darrell Bowden, Director, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management
Program and Year of Graduation: Career and Work Counsellor, 1995
One of 11 children, Darrell Bowden grew up experiencing first-hand the sense of being an ‘outsider’ because of his Black and Indigenous heritage, and eventually because of his sexual orientation.
These experiences became the foundation of his multi-faceted career in social justice, equity and inclusion in employment.
Although from a seventh- generation Canadian family, Bowden was the first to go to college and university.
Currently, he is the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management, where he works to embed equity, diversity and inclusion in systems, practices and policies.
Category: Creative Arts and Design
Nominee: Sage Paul
Artist and Designer – Sage Paul
Program and Year of Graduation: Fashion Techniques and Design, 2006
Co-founder and executive & artistic director of the bi-annual celebratory Indigenous Fashion Arts in Toronto, Sage Paul – a Denesuliné tskwe member of the English River First Nation – works to express and sustain Indigenous culture. She learned to sew and bead as a child, loved fashion and enrolled in a fashion techniques and design program.
As the co-founder and executive & artistic director of Indigenous Fashion Arts, Paul provides advocacy, training and support. Paul has designed for theatre and dance, given a TEDX talk and speaks on panels.
Honouring Indigenous culture and values while reviving lost skills and arts is the essence of her work.
Category: Health Sciences
Nominee: Cassandra Koss, Lifestyle Manager, V!VA Mississauga Retirement Community
Program and Year of Graduation: Interprofessional Complex and Long-Term Care, 2021
Cassandra Koss’s career has advanced swiftly from volunteer to summer student to activation staff to manager to her current position as a Resident Engagement Manager with direct reports.
As a student, she was asked to make “friendly visits” with residents. When she realized how meaningful these interactions were, it was an epiphany.
As COVID confined residents to their rooms and exacerbated their loneliness, Koss developed an innovative program allowing residents to use iPads so they could engage with each other.
Koss dreams of opening her own long-term care residence someday and has thoughts about innovations to make residents’ later years more meaningful and enjoyable.
Category: Recent Graduate
Nominee: Aliya Hirji, Project Administrator, Govan Brown & Associates
Program and Year of Graduation: Architectural Technology, 2020; Honors Bachelor of Technology –Construction Management, 2022
Aliya Akil Hirji has always been fascinated by architecture. She came to Canada from Tanzania, studied architectural technology and went on to construction management.
She adapted to Canadian life, made the dean’s list and received several merit-based scholarships. A construction company awarded her a scholarship and hired her. She is currently the Project Administrator at Govan Brown & Associates.
Hirji has high expectations for herself and dismisses stereotypes about women’s roles. She looks forward to encouraging women to consider the construction industry and to becoming a mentor. Raised to show gratitude and to give back, she volunteers at organizations such as the Jaffari Community Centre and Out of the Cold Foundation.
Nominee: Eugene Filice, Vice President, Construction at Great Gulf
Program and Year of Graduation: Construction Engineering Technician, 1994
When Eugene Filice told his father and grandfather, he wanted to study construction technology, they said “NO! It’s too dirty, too risky” — despite the fact they were both construction workers. However, he was determined to make this his career.
He is currently the Vice President of Construction at Great Gulf – a major residential construction company – where he emphasizes teamwork and shared responsibility. He says technology has transformed the residential construction industry from backbreaking, dangerous work to a safer, more automated workplace.
Filice has contributed to advancing the construction industry on three major deeply interconnected fronts: technology, health and safety, and education.
Nominee Name: Mike Yorke
Director of Public Affairs and Innovation of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario
Program and Year of Graduation: General Carpentry, 1986; Labour Studies, 1989
In his teens, Mike Yorke travelled the world working on construction sites. He developed an affinity for teamwork and a fascination with power and politics.
He is currently Director of Public Affairs and innovation of the Carpenters District Council of Ontario. Where he advocates for the education, safety and protection of all workers.
He co-founded the College of Carpenters and Allied Trades and has been instrumental in ensuring workers have up-to-date skills. Yorke has participated in humanitarian construction projects in several countries, particularly Jamaica, as well as supporting local programs to interest youth-at-risk in the trades.
George Brown’s 2021 Premier’s Awards Nominees
Chef John Cirillo
Nominee: Chef John Cirillo, Chef/Owner, Cirillo’s Culinary Academy
Program/Grad Year: Graduate 1986, Cook Apprenticeship Basic
Twice named Toronto’s Chef of the Year, Chef John Cirillo runs Cirillo’s Culinary Academy, a state-of-the-art kitchen facility that is a favourite for group cooking classes and teambuilding events by corporations like RBC, CIBC, Bell and Rogers. Cirillo opened his Academy in 2008 after a successful career as Executive Chef for Hilton hotels. The Escoffier Society of Toronto awarded him Chef of the Year in 1998 and 2003. Cirillo joined Hilton as an apprentice at 17 and worked in England and Switzerland. In 2004, Cirillo led the Ontario team to Gold and Silver medals at the Culinary Olympics in Germany.
Nominee: David Offierski, Vice-President, Customer Experience Strategy & Design, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG)
Program/Grad Year: Graduate 2007, Marketing Manager, Financial Services
David Offierski is passionate about technology and its role in our personal and professional lives and he’s made a career out of helping businesses transform their digital profile to deliver exceptional customer service. As Vice-President of OLG’s Customer Experience Strategy and Design, Offierski and his team are transforming OLG’s digital presence and creating new online gaming entertainment. In five years with Konrad Group he helped grow the company from revenues of $2 million to $40 million. Offierski started Clip Mobile, Canada’s first location-based mobile coupon app, in 2009. He also owns Grand Trunk Trading Company, selling restored vintage maps online.
Category: Creative Arts and Design
Nominee: Diana Coatsworth, Owner, Diana Coatsworth Design
Program/Grad Year: Graduate 2015, Fashion Techniques and Design
In March 2020, at the start of the global pandemic, Toronto fashion designer Diana Coatsworth mobilized an army of 3,700 volunteers to sew desperately needed PPE for healthcare workers. Over the coming months, The Sewing Army sewed more than 120,000 masks, surgical caps and isolation gowns. Coatsworth’s own fashion business, Diana Coatsworth Design, was also dramatically impacted by the pandemic. With no demand for her signature custom event wear and upscale casual, she switched to creating one-of-a-kind casual wear from pre-loved and eco-conscious fabrics. Prior to designing, Coatsworth was a professional actor, singer, dancer and choreographer for over 25 years.
Category: Health Sciences
Nominee: Paul Sharma, Mass Vaccination Program Co-Lead, Region of Peel
Program/Grad Year: Graduate 1999, Dental Hygiene
As Co-Lead for Peel Region’s Mass Vaccination Program, Paul Sharma was charged with the responsibility of vaccinating 1.5 million people during the global pandemic. Deployed from his position as Director of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, Sharma oversaw the hiring of almost 2,000 personnel and the establishment of multiple clinics. A hotspot in the province, Peel’s clinics delivered 170,000 vaccines in seven days under Sharma’s watch. Sharma, who started his career as a dental hygienist, is a passionate advocate for what he calls “putting the mouth back in the body,” making oral health part of the mainstream health care system.
Category: Recent Graduate
Nominee: Dymika Harte, Founder and Creative Designer, UNSGND
Program/Grad Year: Graduate 2018, Graphic Design
Just three years out of college, Dymika Harte is already a successful entrepreneur. She runs UNSGND, an all-female creative agency that provides branding, design and printing for small businesses, especially those that are female-driven. UNSGND recently partnered with Wilfred Laurier University to provide branding and mentoring to women entrepreneurs. Harte’s also the co-founder of Clutch App, an Uber-like application for driving schools and students to book driving lessons and classes, scheduled to launch in 2021. Passionate about mentoring others, Harte created a Youth Business Fund for new entrepreneurs and produced a workshop to help young people called Be the Brand.
Leandro Almanzor Dumlao
Nominee: Leandro Almanzor Dumlao, CEO and President, Perceptible Group Inc.
Program/Grad Year: Graduate 2000, Visual Arts Fundamentals
Digital marketing specialist Leandro Dumlao is CEO and President of Perceptible Group Inc., providing innovative strategies for Fortune 500 companies and startups alike. An entrepreneur at heart, Dumlao is co-founder of the popular Canada’s Podcast, featuring interviews with Canadian entrepreneurs. Prior to Perceptible, Dumlao worked with Intuit, where his performance leading global teams and driving triple digit growth earned him the company’s Game Changer Award four times in 6.5 years. Dumlao believes his college education has gave him a competitive advantage throughout his career. A lifelong boxer, Dumlao gave a TEDX talk on the parallels between boxing and leadership.
Category: Community Services
Nominee: Stephanie Cole, Founder/Safe Space Specialist, Safepod
Program/Grad Year: Graduate 2018, Social Service Worker
Stephanie Cole is passionate about safe spaces. She believes being comfortable in your workplace, and living without fear, should be the standard for all work environments. That’s why she created SafePod, a consulting and training enterprise working with businesses to end gender-based violence and harassment, particularly in the hospitality industry. As as a member of the LGBTQ community, female and a visible minority, Cole says she was particularly susceptible to sexual harassment working as a bartender while attending college. She says she founded SafePod so others don’t have to experience what she did to pay their rent or buy groceries.