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 Whitney LeAnn Williams

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Whitney LeAnn Williams

Whitney Williams died at age 15 following a six year battle with AIDS. She had graduated from Park View Elementary School, and was a student at Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois at the time of her death.

Whitney was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS at the age of nine. There was no explanation as to how she contracted it; no drug use, no blood transfusion, no sexual abuse. She was one of the handful of people who've been classified as having 'No Identified Risk' contributing to their AIDS diagnoses.

As early as age ten, Whitney began publicly advocating for education and awareness of AIDS. Poised and articulate beyond her years, she appeared on numerous daytime TV talk shows including Montel Williams and Oprah, seeking to combat the fear and stigma surrounding the disease.

Maria Mathes, a sixth grade teacher in Pecos, New Mexico read Whitney's story in People magazine in 1993. She encouraged her students to write letters to Whitney, and by the end of the school year, the students had launched a successful campaign to bring Whitney to Pecos for a visit. The following year, the program spread to the Sante Fe school system. And thus 'The Whitney Project' was born.

The 'Whitney Project' serves as a support organization which pairs AIDS patients and their families with school children in a 'pen pal' relationship. The project's aims are twofold: to decrease the sense of isolation in the patients while increasing awareness and compassion in the students. At the time of Whitney's death, the program had spread across the entire US.

The second photo on the right is of Whitney at age 11, with teacher Maria Mathes.

The third photo on the right is Whitney's panel on the NAMES Project Memorial Quilt.

"What I want kids to learn is that you can't get AIDS by being someone's friend."
-- Whitney Williams

  • Created by: Laura
  • Added: 10 Jul 2011
  • Find A Grave Memorial 73156777
  • Sheila Chamberlain
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Whitney LeAnn Williams (25 Jan 1982–13 May 1997), Find A Grave Memorial no. 73156777, citing Memorial Park Cemetery and Crematorium, Skokie, Cook County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Laura (contributor 47521812) .