WVU Tech student receives Youth Empowerment Grant for art therapy activities on campus
Fayth Laxton, a student at West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech), recently was awarded a $7,500 Youth Empowerment Grant through the Collegiate Strategic Prevention Framework Partnerships for Success (C-SPF PFS, or C-SPF) to bring relaxation and coping mechanisms to students through art therapy.
C-SPF PFS is a federally grant-funded program awarded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to Marshall University’s Center of Excellence for Recovery. The goal of the program is to prevent and reduce the onset of substance misuse among college students within a 21-county area, covering all of southern West Virginia. There are nine student leaders at colleges, universities and community colleges throughout the state, including the Osteopathic School, working on their respective campuses to promote wellness and prevention.
Laxton, a forensic investigation major and first-generation student from Monroe County, is passionate about advocacy, helping people and community service. In addition to being the C-SPF PFS student leader on Tech's campus, she is also President of Tech Alliance, Vice President of the First2Network, Vice President of the Student Government Association and Vice President of the Forensic Investigation Association.
“I got into C-SPF because I needed a job and money for college, but when I found it had to do with advocacy, it was a perfect fit for me,” she said. “C-SPF’s goal is targeting the problem before it begins, targeting prevention and not just recovery. We do a lot of stuff with mindfulness and coping mechanisms.”
Laxton began working with C-SPF in July of 2023 and was immediately tasked with writing a grant, something she had never done before. Her inspiration for the art therapy idea came partially from her own experiences using art as a form of therapy and from previous mindfulness activities on campus.
“Before I was a STEM kid, I was an art kid,” she explains. "I remember when I was younger and upset about something, I would go draw stuff or paint. Art is calming, and if you mess it up, it doesn’t matter because it’s your art,” she explained.
The grant allowed her to buy many art supplies, including paint, canvases, paint-by-number sets, brushes and other supplies for students. She is planning events in the residence halls where students can come by and create something, or even take supplies back to their room. She will include information on mindfulness resources WVU Tech offers students, like the wellness center, to encourage students to reach out if they feel like they need to.
“I feel like not only does it [art] help with mindfulness, but it’s an activity that doesn’t necessarily feel like you’re doing a mindfulness or wellness thing. You don’t always like to be reminded that you’re doing something specifically for your mental health,” Laxton said. “It’s something that students can do that’s not competitive, something that you do for yourself.”
Laxton says she loves being involved with C-SPF because she gets to work with other people and has the opportunity to earn certifications, attend trainings and help promote prevention to college students.
It may seem odd that someone who is majoring in forensic investigation is also interested in prevention, but Laxton says it’s a natural fit for her. C-SPF has given her the tools to be a better advocate for people.
“I thought about doing victim’s advocacy work because I love that, but I learned I still get to help people doing crime scene investigation and help those who have been victims of crime,” she explains.
Laxton plans on going into law enforcement after graduation and using her forensic investigation degree to become a crime scene investigator.
To learn more about C-SPF PFS, visit muprevention.org. For more information on the forensic investigation major or any of the clubs and organizations at WVU Tech, visit wvutech.edu.