Gay Teen, Cut Off By Parents, Receives Over $100,000 For College Tuition From Strangers

"It's encouragement like this that sustains me."

Seth Owen, an 18-year-old from Jacksonville, Fla. graduated high school a co-valedictorian with a 4.16 GPA. Though he had secured a few scholarships for college, he still wasn't able to afford his dream school, Georgetown University. That's because his parents chose to cut him off after he came out as gay. 

Owen eventually left his home two-thirds of the way through his senior year after his parents sent him to a Christian counselor, and reportedly gave him an ultimatum to attend church or leave. He left for his safety, opting to sleep on friends' couches.

When he received his financial aid package from Georgetown University, it had factored in parents' contribution. But without the assistance of his parents, Owen couldn't afford tuition and was $20,000 short. To make the situation worse, the college refused to recalculate his aid even with letters from countless supporters, including mental health professionals and school personnel — and he had already denied all of his other acceptances. 

That's when his high school biology teacher, Jane Martin, stepped in to help.

Martin set up a GoFundMe page for Owen on June 18 with the goal of raising $20,000. She wrote on the page, "I taught Seth biology and mentored him throughout his high school years. He was the ring bearer in my wedding. Last month, I watched him walk across the stage in a Jacksonville arena weighted down by more cords and medals to count. I'm writing this community for help." 

She recounted his story and revealed he continued to attend school while working full-time to support himself.

With the donations of over 2,000 people, the GoFundMe page has raised over $100,000 as of August 2.

After the huge response the GoFundMe page had, Owen shared a video thanking everyone for every message, share, and donation.

"It's encouragement like this that sustains me and reminds me during difficult times that goals are attainable," he stated.

After his story went viral, Owen and Martin shared an update on GoFundMe about how there are unfortunately many LGBTQ+ youth in similar situations. "The reality is that Seth's story isn't unique. LGBTQ youth account for 40 percent of the homeless teen population." They point out that Black youth who identify as LGBTQ+ have the highest rates of homelessness. They highlight how Owen was fortunate enough to have mentors and supporters, but there are vulnerable people who do not.

The duo encourages people to be allies to the LGBTQ+ community and help others who are at risk. "There are organizations working to provide resources, safe spaces, and support to LGBTQ students who need funding and volunteers," they wrote. "Find those voices and organizations. Invest in them and help make our nation a little brighter and inclusive for all."

UPDATE:  Kaylee Petik, Seth's coach, notified A Plus that Georgetown University has since amended Seth's aid package. A formal statement by Seth, agreed upon by his lawyers and Georgetown Financial Aid Services, was released August 3. The statement in full is as follows: 

Thank you. 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. Best regards, Seth Owen

(H/T: Scary Mommy)

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