A gay teenager whose parents forced him out of the family home will be able to attend university on a scholarship after a teacher crowdfunded more than $128,000.
Seth Owen (pictured) will be able to achieve his “life goal” of attending Georgetown University, thanks to his former biology teacher Jane Martin and the generosity more than 2,000 donors who contributed to his cause.
The 18-year-old Florida student’s Southern Baptist parents discovered he was secretly gay and sent him to dangerous “gay conversion” therapy when he was in his sophomore year.
“I was writing a paper, and my dad decided to check my phone late in the evening,” he told NBC News.
“He found a damning photograph of me and another guy. Nothing inappropriate, but it clearly indicated that I was gay.
“They sent me to a Christian counsellor. It was clear that their intent was for me to walk out of therapy straight.
“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.”
Owen convinced his parents to let him leave the therapy after a few months, but earlier this year he said his parent’s intolerance escalated.
After numerous arguments, he said he was given an ultimatum: attend their anti-gay church or move out.
“The worst part was I was packing my bags, and I was walking out the door, and I was hoping that my mum would stand in my way,” he said.
“I was hoping that she would say, ‘I love my child more than I love my religion.’”
Owen spent the next few months sleeping at friends’ houses and working to support himself while finishing high school.
But when he received an acceptance letter to Georgetown University, he was crushed to realise that without his parents as guarantors of his student loans he couldn’t afford to go.
“I started to cry, because I realised there was no way that I could go to college,” he said.
“Georgetown was my only option, because I had already denied my other acceptances.”
It was then that Owen’s former teacher and mentor Martin, whose same-sex wedding Owen attended, stepped in and started a GoFundMe page with a target of $20,000, the amount the student needed to pay for his first year. The campaign went viral and raised more than $128,000.
“After we had hit $2,000, Seth was just like, ‘I’m so surprised that people, like, actually care about me,’” Martin told NBC News.
“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.
“I’m just excited for him to have this community literally come around and put all of our arms together and raise him up for the first time.”
On Friday, Seth announced on the GoFundMe page that the university had adjusted his initial aid package to give him a full scholarship.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
He added that he now plans to put the GoFundMe donations toward an “the establishment of a scholarship to help LGBTQ+ scholars who find themselves in the circumstance I was in earlier this year.”
“Again, a simple ‘Thank You’ seems to be not enough for all of the support I’ve received from so many,” he said.
“I will be seeking to pass on the kindness and generosity that I have been shown.”