Jessica Rotolo is many things.
She’s a Humber College alumna, having graduated from the Community Integration Through Co-operative Education program in 2021.
She’s an actor, dancer and model. She’s also a tireless advocate for those with Down syndrome and has been featured in a number of PSAs and news stories, including the Canadian Down Syndrome Society's #INPLOYABLE social media campaign this year.
As well, she’s an ambassador for Best Buddies, an organization that offers school programs to create friendships between people with and without an intellectual or developmental disability. Rotolo is co-president of the Best Buddies Toronto Metropolitan University chapter and, during her time at Humber, she was also one of the founders and co-president of the Best Buddies Humber North Campus chapter.
It’s her passion for art, however, that’s recently been recognized as Rotolo submitted the winning design for the #LotsOfSocks Campaign. The Down Syndrome International (DSi) campaign raises awareness about Down syndrome and gets people talking on World Down Syndrome Day, which is celebrated each year on March 21.
Rotolo’s submission was based on her painting “Love All the Colours of the World” and was selected out of hundreds of entries from around the world by DSi ambassadors, who also have Down syndrome. Her design is being used on socks, which are being sold by DSi, and the money raised will fund projects to improve the lives of people with Down syndrome across the globe.
“I was really excited when I found out I won,” said Rotolo. “It’s a great honour to have my peers from around the world pick my design. Down Syndrome International does so much work and advocacy for people with Down syndrome. I’m so happy to help with my design – I hope it makes lots of money.”
Rotolo’s mother Dorlean Lieghfars-Rotolo said the family now has a beautiful memory of watching Rotolo find out the good news and the happy tears that flowed afterwards.
“We couldn’t be prouder of Jessica and how she’s become a very successful young woman,” said Lieghfars-Rotolo.
Art has been a big part of Rotolo’s life for many years. Since she was a child, she loved drawing hearts (she calls them her “signature shape”) and hearts are featured prominently in her artwork and the winning design.
She, along with University of Guelph-Humber student Lauren Abela, organized the photography exhibit “Love Means…” that was on display at the university earlier this year. It features nine stories depicting the different forms of love that people with Down syndrome experience.
Abela is in her fourth year of the psychology program at the University of Guelph-Humber and is currently conducting research with an aim to make campus life more inclusive for people with Down syndrome. Students or faculty interested in getting involved can email her at Labela01@guelphhumber.ca.
Rotolo’s love of art also led to her creating a line of Christmas and holiday-themed greeting cards that are sold at Kid Icarus in Kensington Market in Toronto.