Click here for the 2020 Best of Orlando® Readers Poll ballot!

Monday, February 12, 2018

Florida high school installs sculpture dedicated to Pulse victim

Posted By on Mon, Feb 12, 2018 at 2:51 PM

click to enlarge drewleinonenviafb.jpg

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.

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."

click to enlarge 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.

Tags: , ,

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

May 27, 2020

View more issues


© 2020 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation