UPDATE: Aug. 3 ― High school valedictorian Seth Owen, in a statement sent to HuffPost by Georgetown University, wrote that the school’s office of student financial services adjusted his aid package and his “expected contribution is now $0.”
Owen said the contributions from the campaign “will help me succeed academically this year and in the years to come.”
“At the moment,” he added, “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.”
Georgetown told HuffPost it cannot comment on students’ “individual cases due to federal privacy laws.”
A high school valedictorian who says his Southern Baptist parents ostracized him because of his sexuality is fulfilling his dream of going to college thanks to a generous GoFundMe campaign.
Seth Owen, who identifies as gay, graduated from First Coast High School in Jacksonville, Florida, with a 4.16 GPA, NBC News reports.
The 18-year-old self-described “nerd” planned on attending Georgetown University in the fall, but was unable to afford the tuition and said he couldn’t count on his parents for financial support.
So Jane Martin, Owen’s former biology teacher and mentor, created a GoFundMe page to raise the $20,000 he would need to order to enroll.
As of this posting, the online campaign has raised over $81,000 and counting.
According to Martin’s GoFundMe description, after Owen endured a year of gay conversion therapy — a “harmful” practice the American Medical Association has found to have a “lack scientific credibility” — his parents eventually gave him an ultimatum. The teen was told that would have to continue attending his family’s church that outwardly attacked his sexual orientation and the LGBTQ community or move out.
Owen made the heartbreaking decision to leave.
“The worst part was I was packing my bags, and I was walking out the door, and I was hoping that my mom would stand in my way,” Owen told NBC. “I was hoping that she would say, ‘I love my child more than I love my religion.’”
He was living on friends’ couches when he received his financial aid package from Georgetown.
Martin wrote on her campaign page that the university created the package based on the assumption that his parents would foot the rest of the bill. Owen tried to appeal it, sending letters from mental health professionals, community organizations and school employees, but the university wouldn’t budge.
That’s when Martin stepped in.
“After we had hit $2,000, Seth was just like, ‘I’m so surprised that people, like, actually care about me,’” Martin recalled to NBC.
A spokesperson for Georgetown told the news outlet that it “admits and enrolls students without regard to their financial circumstances” but also noted that although they cannot comment on this particular case, they do work with students whose financial situations have changed since admission.
Owen and Martin said if Georgetown does amend the financial aid package, they will use the funds from the campaign to set up a scholarship for other teens in Owen’s situation.
In a video posted to Martin’s GoFundMe page, Owen says that each donation sends the message “that you believe in me and you believe in my potential.”
“And it’s encouragement like this that sustains me and reminds me in difficult times that goals are attainable,” he said.