After Seth Owen’s parents threw him out of the house, the 18-year-old gay valedictorian pleaded with Georgetown University to reassess his financial aid package. After all, the school had calculated his aid based on the assumption his parents would be contributing, and he had already declined all the other offers he refused.
The Jesuit university refused, though, and Owen thought his dream of a top-tier education was over. Until a kind-hearted teacher launched a GoFundMe campaign that wound up netting Owen more than $130,000 toward tuition.
But now that Owen’s story has gone viral, Georgetown administrators are coming forward and offering him a full ride 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 wrote in an update on the GoFundMe page. “Due to their efforts and attention, they were able to adjust my aid package even further, my expected contribution is now $0,” he told NBC News. “With these new adjustments, I will be able to attend Georgetown University this fall.”
Owen, who graduated from First Coast High School in Jacksonville, Florida, with a 4.61 GPA, plans to use the funds raised via GoFundMe to cover additional expenses and to start a scholarship for other LGBT students in similar straits. “I am looking forward to utilizing the resources of Georgetown to help with this effort,” he added.
Owen’s guardian angel was Jane Martin, his former biology teacher: She launched the crowdfunding campaign and really spread the word about this special teen. “Seth was just a kid that really stood out to me,” Martin told NBC News. “He was super ambitious and was always trying to go above and beyond to make sure he could be as successful as possible.”
Martin added she wanted to “bring a rainbow in the midst of Seth’s storm.”
His parents learned he was gay his sophomore year of high school, though it was hardly a planned coming out. “My dad decided to check my phone late in the evening. He found a damning photograph of me and another guy,” Owen recalls. “Nothing inappropriate, but it clearly indicated that I was gay.”
After that his parents sent him to a Christian counselor to “cure” him.
“It was clear that their intent was for me to walk out of therapy straight,” Owen told NBC. “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.”
The arguments between the gay teen and his parents continued, often about how anti-LGBT their church was, until they finally gave him an ultimatum in February: Go to their church and get straightened out or leave their house. He says his mother didn’t try to stop him when he left: “I was hoping that she would say ‘I love my child more than I love my religion.’”
Did Georgetown do right by gay valedictorian Seth Owen or was the school trying to fix a PR problem?
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