Florida high school installs sculpture dedicated to Pulse victim

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A Pinellas County high school honored one of its own by installing a sculpture dedicated to an alumnus who died during the mass shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE DRU PROJECT
Christopher "Drew" Leinonen, 32, was one of 49 people whose lives were taken on June 12, 2016. When he was a student at Seminole High School, Leinonen started the school's Gay-Straight Alliance student organization. His acts earned him the Anne Frank Humanitarian Award in 2002.

Last Friday, Seminole High School honored Leinonen by dedicating a bronze likeness of two hands holding each other. The dedication ceremony also included speeches from school administrators, students and Leinonen's mother, Christine Leinonen.

Drew Leinonen was also a graduate of the University of Central Florida, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology. His boyfriend, Juan Guerrero, 22, was starting out as a pre-finance student at UCF. The loving couple were soulmates and had plans to marry, according to friends and family. On June 12, they were partying with friends at Pulse in Orlando when a gunman started shooting at the crowd. Both men were killed.

In Leinonen's honor, his friends established "The Dru Project," an LGBTQ advocacy organization that promotes Gay-Straight Alliance student organizations in high schools and offers scholarships to students who "truly exemplify Drew's spirit for inclusion and unity."

"[Seminole High School's hand sculpture ceremony] was a beautiful tribute to our friend Drew Leinonen and the legacy he has left behind to his friends, family, loved ones and even strangers," said Sara Grossman, communications director for the group. "There was never a stranger to Drew. His arms (and hands) were always open. Every person was an opportunity for a new friend, and that's one of many things we loved about him."

The Dru Project founder Shawn Chaudhry, left, and Christine Leinoen, right. - PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE DRU PROJECT
  • Photo provided by The Dru Project
  • The Dru Project founder Shawn Chaudhry, left, and Christine Leinoen, right.