Seth Owen was the valedictorian of his senior class at First Coast High School in Jacksonville, Florida. He had a 4.17 GPA, was on the swim team and looked forward to college. He is also gay.
That last fact wound up leading to a split with his Southern Baptist parents who drove him out of their home after he requested to stop going to their church because of its anti-gay views. To his horror, Owen, 18, realized that he could not attend Georgetown University because the school had based his aid package on an expected $20,000 contribution from his parents.
That’s when Jane Martin, a biology teacher at his high school, stepped in and started a GoFundMe page to raise tuition for Owen. As of this writing, $128,000 has been raised and Owen will use it to set up a scholarship fund for other LGBTQ students after Georgetown reduced his costs to zero (see update at bottom).
Owen’s story, told by Alexander Kacala of NBC News, has become a heartwarming tale of strangers chipping in to help a young man follow his dreams.
“After we had hit $2,000, Seth was just like, ‘I’m so surprised that people, like, actually care about me,’” Martin recalled.
“He has had so much support and so many people reach out and say ‘You’re not alone,’ and ‘It gets better,’ all of the things that we all need to hear when we’re queer teenagers and are suffering,” Martin, who is also gay, added. “I’m just excited for him to have this community literally come around and put all of our arms together and bring him up and raise him up for the first time.”
The story details the struggles Owen had after his dad checked his phone while he was a sophomore and discovered his son was gay. That led to a stint of conversion therapy and a final ultimatum where Seth was told to choose staying at his church or leaving home.
“The worst part was I was packing my bags,” Owen told NBC, “and I was walking out the door, and I was hoping that my mom would stand in my way. I was hoping that she would say ‘I love my child more than I love my religion.’”
While the support Owen has gotten is wonderful, the fact still remains that he has been shunned by his parents who chose to follow the dictates of their hateful religion over loving their son. It’s a reality all to many LGBT people still face.
The NBC story is well worth your time.
Update: Georgetown has adjusted Owen’s financial aid package and his costs are now zero. He will use the GoFundMe money top set up a scholarship for other LGBTQ students. Owen released this statement:
Statement from Seth Owen on Aug. 3, 2018
Thank you to all of my supporters in Jacksonville and across the globe who have given their time, talents, and financial support to help me make my dream of attending Georgetown University a reality.
Thank you to the staff and professionals at the Georgetown University Office of Student Financial Services. Over the past several months, the Office of Student Financial Services has worked to address the situation that I faced after I was forced to leave my home, in February.
In mid-June of this year, the Office of Student Financial Affairs adjusted my aid package to take into account my circumstances; however, there was still a gap that would need to be filled by private loans. These loans were not a viable option for me, as my parents would not act as the necessary guarantors of the loans. At this point, I thought my dream of attending Georgetown University was over.
Hearing of this situation, my former teacher, Jane Martin, started a Go-Fund-Me campaign. To date, the goals of the campaign have been met many times over. While the campaign has been ongoing, the professionals at the Office of Student Financial Services have continued to work with me to make my dream a reality.
Due to their efforts and attention, they were able to adjust my aid package even further, my expected contribution is now $0. With these new adjustments, I will be able to attend Georgetown University this fall. The Office of Student Financial Services was instrumental in helping me enroll in the Georgetown Scholarship Program, whose purpose is to make attendance at Georgetown possible for students in a financial situation similar to my own.
This program also includes mentoring and networking opportunities which will help me to assist others in situations similar to the one I found myself in earlier this year. Georgetown is my dream school because of the limitless opportunities it provides to its students. In particular, my interest in the school was piqued by the prestigious program of study in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.
I am honored to be selected to attend Georgetown University and am elated that I am now able to attend Georgetown because of the gracious donations to the GoFundMe campaign and the efforts of the Office of Student Financial Services.
Thank you to all who have donated to the campaign. Your generosity will help me succeed academically this year and in the years to come.
At the moment, I am in process of exploring the establishment of a scholarship to help LGBTQ+ scholars who find themselves in the circumstance I was in earlier this year. I am looking forward to utilizing the resources of Georgetown to help with this effort.
Again, a simple “Thank You” seems to be not enough for all of the support I’ve received from so many. I will be seeking to pass on the kindness and generosity that I have been shown.