Metro Weekly

Teacher raises $100k to send gay teen to college after his parents reject him

Seth Owen's parents forced him into conversion therapy and then told him to leave their home

Seth Owen – Photo: Jane Martin / GoFundMe

A gay teen who was rejected by his parents will be going to college after his high school teacher started a fundraising campaign to cover his tuition.

Seth Owen, valedictorian at his high school in Jacksonville, Fla., had hoped to attend Georgetown University this fall, but realised it wouldn’t be possible once the university sent his financial aid package.

Georgetown had calculated the aid based on assistance from Owen’s parents, who apparently forced him out of their home because he is gay.

“I started to cry, because I realized there was no way that I could go to college,” Owen told NBC News. “Georgetown was my only option, because I had already denied my other acceptances.”

The university apparently refused to recalculate Owen’s financial aid, leaving him with a shortfall of $20,000. After hearing of his plight, former biology teacher Jane Martin setup a GoFundMe page for Owen to try and raise money for his fees.

“Seth was just a kid that really stood out to me,” Martin said. “He was super ambitious and was always trying to go above and beyond to make sure he could be as successful as possible.”

In her original post on the GoFundMe page, Martin said she wanted to “bring a rainbow in the midst of Seth’s storm,” adding, “I know the goal seems unrealistic and the circumstances aren’t ideal, but I also know communities can make the impossible possible.”

As of press time Martin has raised almost $100,000, far exceeding the original $20,000 goal.

Owen opened up about the split between him and his parents to NBC News, detailing their attempts to force him into conversion therapy, and their eventual rejection of him.

Raised Southern Baptist, Owen’s parents learned of his sexuality during his Sophomore year.

“I was writing a paper, and my dad decided to check my phone late in the evening,” he said. “He found a damning photograph of me and another guy. Nothing inappropriate, but it clearly indicated that I was gay.”

After discussing the revelation, Owen’s parents sent him to a “Christian counselor.”

“It was clear that their intent was for me to walk out of therapy straight,” Seth said, adding, “It was not like a conversion camp, but it was definitely awkward conversion therapy where they tried encouraging stereotypical masculine tasks and things like that.”

Seth Owen – Photo: Jane Martin / GoFundMe

This February, while in his senior year, Owen left his parents’ house after repeated disagreements over the nature of the church they attended.

“[The church] talked very negatively about the LGBTQ+ community,” Owen said. “They said that gay people would not serve in the church. Then they were talking about transgender people as though they weren’t human, and that really, really bothered me.”

His parents ultimately gave him a choice: go to their church or get out of the house. Owen said that his mother didn’t try to stop him when he opted for the latter. “I was hoping that she would say ‘I love my child more than I love my religion,'” he said.

Owen was apparently sleeping on a friend’s couch when he received his financial aid package from Georgetown, and was “devastated” when he realized he wouldn’t be able to afford to attend.

Now that his tuition is paid for almost five times over, Owen and Martin apparently plan to create a scholarship fund to help teens in a similar situation.

In an update to the GoFundMe page after the scale of the donations became apparent, Martin urged those who had donated and read about Owen’s story to “continue your allyship offline in your own communities.”

“There are voices and stories who deserve to be amplified, uplifted, and supported just as much as Seth’s story,” she wrote. “There are organizations working to provide resources, safe spaces, and support to LGBTQ students who need funding and volunteers. Find those voices and organizations. Invest in them and help make our nation a little brighter and inclusive for all.”

Read Seth Owen’s full story over at NBC News.

Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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