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M.S.W. Student Records Messages of Hope for Orlando

Aaron Laxton, a Master of Social Work student at Saint Louis University's College for Public Health and Social Justice, is recording messages of hope and solidarity from the local community to send to the survivors and families of the Orlando shooting on June 12.

Aaron Laxton, M.S.W. student, at Saint Louis University

Aaron Laxton is a student in the College for Public Health and Social Justice at Saint Louis University.

"We struggle in the aftermath of these events to gain our bearing and wonder how we can help," Laxton said.

On June 13, Laxton sent out an open invitation via social media and several news outlets to anyone who wanted to participate in the video project.

"Gay, straight, black, white, men, women ... the youngest was 17 years old and the oldest was 59," Laxton said of the 17 who came to the filming at Pride St. Louis headquarters. "It was a beautiful thing."

Once finished, Laxton will share the video online, adding the voices of support from St. Louis to the collective #WeAreOrlando movement.

"People need a space where they can decompress, process and express how they're feeling right now. That's really the purpose of the whole project," says Laxton. He notes that his social work studies have made him "acutely aware of how sensitive our equilibrium is to these types of traumas."

Since the project was featured on St. Louis Public Radio and television station KSDK, Laxton has been asked to record at other locations, including a church in University City.

"We have to examine what role we may have played as a society when a person feels the need to pick up an assault rifle and slaughter 49 people," he adds. "We have to be strong enough to ask ourselves that."

Laxton will lead a discussion about the events in Orlando from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, in room 1419 in Salus Center.

Outside of SLU, Laxton works full-time as the director of Client Services for Criminal Justice Ministry, overseeing the housing programs and direct services for ex-offenders transitioning out of federal and local prisons. Laxton is also well-known for his HIV/AIDS activism.

Published: June 23, 2016
CPHSJ Communications