Seth Owen, co-valedictorian of his high school class in Jacksonville, Florida, was thrown out of his home earlier this year because his parents couldn’t reconcile his sexual orientation with their own religious beliefs.
After snooping through his phone and discovering he was gay during his sophomore year, Owen’s parents sent him to counseling for conversion therapy and demanded he regularly attend their anti-LGBTQ church.
“They made it clear the intention was to make me straight,” Owen, 18, tells News4Jax.
Continuing to live with his parents, Seth worked three jobs while remaining involved with various after-school programs and swimming. “I guess you could say it was easier to try to avoid home,” he says. “I felt like I was doing something good with the struggle instead of doing something damaging.”
Finally, after refusing to continue attending a church that openly disparaged his sexual orientation, Owen was forced to move out this past February, two-thirds of the way through his senior year. His parents now refuse to support him emotionally or financially.
“I was really, really upset,” Owen continues. “It was extremely hurtful to know that I was walking out that door not knowing what lay ahead and feeling I don’t know how to explain it, it was devastating, absolutely devastating.”
He maintained a 4.16 GPA and became co-valedictorian of First Coast High School’s class of 2018 despite being homeless, sleeping on friends’ couches and working to support himself.
Owen had already been accepted to Georgetown University and, based on the promise of supplementary financial support from his parents, received a scholarship of about $50,000 toward the $77,000 annual tuition.
One of Owen’s former teachers created a GoFundMe page to help him pay for his first year of Georgetown, and its $20,000 goal has already been exceeded. An update on the page explains that Georgetown has denied Owen’s appeal for independent status, resulting in a reduction of his scholarship.
“I don’t think thank you is good enough,” Owen says. “Of course I am extremely grateful, but I think thank you doesn’t say it. Now it’s time to pay it forward.”
Owen, who leaves August 22 to attend Georgetown, plans to become a defense attorney for neglected teens.
UPDATE: A Georgetown spokesperson has reached out to NewNowNext with the following statement: “Georgetown University admits and enrolls students without regard to their financial circumstances and is committed to meeting the demonstrated financial need of eligible students through a combination of aid programs that include grants, scholarships, employment and loans from federal, state, private, and University resources. While we cannot comment on any individual case, we work closely with students whose financial circumstances change after admission to modify financial aid assistance and ensure they can still enroll regardless of their ability to pay.”