Gay Valedictorian Kicked Out By Parents Gets Full Ride To Georgetown

A Florida high school valedictorian was kicked out of his home by his parents for being gay. His community helped him raise money to go to college.

UPDATE: A gay high school valedictorian who was kicked out by his parents and unable to go to Georgetown University without their financial help got funds from friends and teachers instead through a crowdfunding campaign. 

Now, the institution has decided to re-evaluate his funding formula, granting him $0 in tuition.

The financial aid package originally calculated for Seth Owen by Georgetown would have required him to pay $20,000 for his first year. But the math that came up with that number considered his parents would help him with the payments, not realizing that Owen was kicked out months ago over their disapproval of his sexuality.

Owen was thankful for the university’s reconsideration. “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 a statement.

With the money raised, Owen plans to pay forward the kindness he received from others and help LGBT students facing similar barriers secure scholarships. 

“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,” he said.

Students like Owen who face insurmountable odds to attaining a secondary education, and who overcome those odds to make their dream a reality, are success stories that are worth celebrating. As Owen himself recognizes, his story would not have been possible without the help of his community, as well as from Georgetown University, the school he now calls home.

The university should be lauded for reconsidering its original decision not to review Owen’s case. Recognizing that more needed to be done to help this student, they did the right thing, and made an exception to help this bright young man get the education he truly deserves.

Most teenagers graduating from high school and going off to college will get help, in some way or another, from their parents. Seth Owen, unfortunately, was ostracized by his parents for being gay and would not be receiving any help from them whatsoever, financial or emotional.

This story does not end sadly, however; thanks to the generosity of his friends, community, and a former teacher, Owen will be attending Georgetown University this fall.

A high school valedictorian with a 4.16 GPA, Owen was accepted by Georgetown and had hoped that his financial aid package could allow him to take out loans so that he could attend school. But the aid package was calculated with the assumption that his parents would also help him.

“I started to cry because I realized there was no way that I could go to college,” Owen said after he received the information. “Georgetown was my only option because I had already denied my other acceptances.”

Owen was kicked out by his parents after they refused to recognize his sexuality months ago. He’s been either homeless or living with friends ever since, making his valedictorian status even more remarkable.

It all started one night when his dad began searching through his phone.

“He was searching for quite a few hours and found a photo that clearly showed that I was gay and questioned me for quite a few hours that night,” Owen explained.

They sent him to a therapy conversion camp, but after Owen pleaded with his parents, they finally relented and decided he could leave. However, they demanded that he go to their strict church, which chastised his sexuality regularly.

When he suggested a different church, a line was drawn.

“Either go to church or you can move out,” Owen said he was told. “I called a mentor. I said, 'I can't do this.' I went back in and asked, 'Is there any way that we can compromise,' and my dad said ‘no.'”

With the aid package Owen received from Georgetown, he would still need $20,000 extra to attend his first year. The situation seemed hopeless, until his high school biology teacher, Jane Martin, set up a GoFundMe page for Owen.

People were inspired by Owen’s determination to go to school, his story with his parents, and his ability to overcome his life’s obstacles. As of this writing on Aug. 1, the goal has been surpassed many times over, and is now at more than $99,000 raised.

“I don't think thank you is good enough,” Owen said after the money was raised. “Of course I am extremely grateful, but I think thank you doesn't say it. Now it's time to pay it forward.”

He said he intends to go to Georgetown to become a defense attorney for teenagers.

The prohibitive cost of college for many students needs to be addressed, but this story (and others like it) is inspiring because of the way Owen’s friends and teachers came together to help him.

His parents may have disowned him, but this student still has a family, one that isn’t blood related but treats him with unconditional love nonetheless. If he remains committed to his studies, Owen will likely go on to do incredible things.

Banner/thumbmail image credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

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