Life

Community Pays For Gay Valedictorian's Tuition

August 3rd, 2018

Like many high schoolers, Seth Owen had a dream of going to college. He had worked hard to get accepted into the college of his choice and even had a very high GPA.

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WJXT Source: WJXT

But when he was accepted to Georgetown University, he found himself unable to pay for college.

He said, “I was the nerd in fifth grade who walked around recess talking about how I wanted to be an astronaut. I was always in a textbook, always in the library, always reading something.”

After finding out he was gay, his parents kicked him out of his home and refused to help him pay for his education. He explained how it all happened, saying, “I started to cry because I realized 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.”

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WJXT Source: WJXT

He had hoped that the school would amend his financial aid package, but when they refused, he felt hopeless.

Then, one of his high school teachers stepped in. His biology teacher had watched him work hard for years, and she wanted to see Seth go to college like he had planned. She set up a GoFundMe account to help him earn money for college.

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

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WJXT Source: WJXT

Seth had a rough time when his parents found out he was gay.

While many people are becoming more accepting of homosexuality, his parents were upset about it.

He said, “I was writing a paper, and my dad decided to check my phone late in the evening. He found a damning photograph of me and another guy. Nothing inappropriate, but it clearly indicated that I was gay. Soon after, they sent me to a Christian counselor. 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 an awkward conversion therapy where they tried encouraging stereotypical masculine tasks and things like that.”

That didn’t make things any easier for Seth. He still wasn’t going to be straight. He was gay, and that’s just the way things were. His parents could either accept it or not.

He added, “I started bringing up my disagreements with the church that they attend. I mean, there was just incident after incident. They talked very negatively about the LGBTQ+ community. 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. 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. I was hoping that she would say ‘I love my child more than I love my religion.’”

His parents never came around, and things became so bad that Seth had to leave his home.

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WJXT Source: WJXT

This made his life a lot harder and a lot more complicated.

He said, “I was just devastated once again.”

When Martin stepped in, he felt a little bit of hope. He still wasn’t sure that strangers would help him pay for college, though. He also didn’t like the idea of asking others for money. But Martin felt this was the right thing to do. She said, “We know that he’s not the type of person to always say, ‘I need help.’ He tries to be very solution-oriented and deal with things on his own,” Martin said about Owen. “We just got to the point where we came together and said, ‘This is something where we need to take the lead and make sure that he gets what he needs.’”

She added, “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 bring him up and raise him up for the first time.”

Sure enough, Seth raised enough money to pay the difference in the amount he owed and what financial aid would cover.

It was a miracle, and he was thrilled. He had raised more than his $20,000 goal. Things were looking up for him.

Seth worries that other students are going through similar situations, and he wants them to know that there are people who can help. He said, “I remember growing up and saying I had really strict religious parents, and people would brush it off. If someone were to say that to me today, I would sit down, and I would ask them, ‘What’s going on? What’s going on at home? What’s happening? What kind of messages are being preached in your church?’”

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WJXT Source: WJXT

He hopes his story will inspire others not to give up on their dreams.

He added,

“It’s difficult to be who you genuinely are when you have all this pressure around you from all these different people in your life,” he added, “but if you become comfortable with who you are, you’re that much more equipped to face these difficult times.”

Watch his story below.

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Source: NBC News, GoFundMe, WJXT – News4Ja\x

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