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George Brown graduate Jessica Lynn Whitbread has one more honour to add to her already impressive list of accomplishments.

Whitbread, who graduated from George Brown’s Community Worker program in 2009, is a recipient of a 2014 Premier’s Award. Every year the province honours college graduates who are making social and economic contributions to their communities in Ontario and beyond. The award is presented in six categories: technology, business, community services, arts and design and health sciences.

Whitbread received her award in the community service category at a ceremony on Nov. 24, 2014 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

Feminist, activist and artist

Whitbread works to advocate for the rights of women living with HIV. She is currently the global director of the International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW). This year, she’s been managing the organization’s relocation to Nairobi, Kenya.

The feminist, activist and artist was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 21. 

“I think one of the amazing things was learning that I was mortal and actually having a deep understanding of that when I was 21,” she said. “It has really shaped how I moved forward with my life.”

Whitbread also creates art that explores sexuality and gender.

George Brown was the starting point

After graduating from George Brown, Whitbread worked at Planned Parenthood Toronto and the AIDS Committee of Toronto. She earned a direct placement into the Master’s program at York University due to her college training and experience.

“I can't say enough about how George Brown was a starting point for me,” she said. “It provided me with the building blocks I needed to continue my journey.”

She now travels the world to highlight issues of women with HIV. Whitbread has attended numerous Canadian and international conferences and has explored the issue in meetings and conferences with the United Nations.

A look at Whitbread’s other achievements

  • She was the youngest and first queer woman to be elected as ICW's chair and founded its first international chapter for young women, adolescents and girls.
  • She was the only Canadian to be selected to attend the UNESCO (United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) International Leadership Training Program in 2009.
  • Won the Leading Women Building Communities award from the Ontario government in 2011.
  • In 2014, Whitbread published a book called Tea Time: Mapping Informal Networks of Women Living with HIV, which features personal letters from women living with HIV.
  • She won awards at George Brown, including Phyliss Eileen Edwards Memorial Award, the Pinball Clemens Scholarship and Outstanding Community Worker.