This Student Was Rejected By His Parents For Being Gay, But Then A Mentor Made His Dream Come True

For 18-year-old Seth Owen, going to college was a goal he had been working towards since he was little. But when his parents found out he was gay, they completely rejected him. And since his college acceptance depended on his parents’ financial support, the would-be undergrad’s dream appeared to be over. That is, until someone unexpected stepped in to offer their help.

It’s not always cool for young kids to show enthusiasm for academia. But it’s not something that Owen ever shied away from. From a young age, he had lofty ambitions about what he wanted to do later in life. Furthermore, the young man knew he had to go through college to reach his goal.

As Owen explained to NBC News in July 2018, “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.” Whatever it took to get into college, then, Owen was clearly prepared to do.

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And, academically things were going exceptionally well for the ambitious teen. You see, Owen was valedictorian at his high school graduation and gave the farewell speech at the ceremony. And with an acceptance from Georgetown University with a GPA of 4.61, the young academic was well on the way to fulfilling his dreams.

The bubble burst, however, when the college sent Owen the details of his financial assistance. A condition of his acceptance into the college was a significant contribution from his family towards tuition. And it was this aspect that now put the ambitious student’s college aspirations into jeopardy.

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Owen’s relationship with his parents had been rocky for a while. Indeed, while he was in tenth grade, the student’s mom and dad made a discovery about their son that they didn’t like very much. You see, Owen hadn’t told his parents that he’s gay, something which doesn’t fit in with their Southern Baptist beliefs.

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As Owen recalled to NBC, “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.” That discovery led to a family falling-out that was never reconciled.

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When Owen’s dad told his mom what he had found, they interrogated their son about his homosexuality until gone four in the morning. But they didn’t stop there. As Owen described, “Soon after, they sent me to a Christian counselor. It was clear that their intent was for me to walk out of therapy straight.”

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The therapy apparently involved participants undertaking “stereotypical masculine tasks” in an attempt to stop them being gay. Owen stuck it out for a while but finally talked his parents into letting him leave after “a few months.” Then, in February 2018, just short of his high school graduation, he left the family home “for his own well-being.”

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When Owen opened up to his parents’ church about what was happening, it didn’t offer any support. In fact, they weren’t very complimentary about the LGBTQ+ community at all. Suggesting gays weren’t welcome there and that those who were transgender “weren’t human”, Owen was deeply uncomfortable with the stance of the church.

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When Owen expressed to his parents that he wanted to go to a different church, they issued an ultimatum. If their son didn’t attend their church, then he could get out of their house. At that point, any hope the student had for them to have a change of heart disappeared. As Owen saw it, his parents chose religion over him – their own son.

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While Owen was left surfing friends’ couches, he must have felt that he’d reached rock bottom. But a few weeks after leaving home, the university notified the would-be student about his tuition situation. It was obvious to him then that the $20,000 fees would be beyond his means without his parents’ help.

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Unfortunately, the university wouldn’t budge on the financial arrangements. And exploring opportunities with other colleges that had accepted him just wasn’t an option – Owen had already turned them down. As he described, “I started to cry, because I realized there was no way that I could go to college.” His dreams were in tatters.

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But someone found out about Owen’s situation and wasn’t going to let it slide. Her name was Jane Martin, a teacher who led the student’s ninth-grade biology class. Indeed, she had also been a confidant to the teen all through high school. So, she rallied teachers and fellow students and set out a game plan.

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Martin explained to NBC, “We know [Owen is] not the type of person to say, ‘I need help’. He tries to be very solution-oriented and deal with things on his own. 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 he gets what he needs.’”

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At which point Martin set up a GoFundMe campaign with a target of covering the $20,000 that Owen was missing. The teacher thought it was unrealistic, but kept up hope regardless. Indeed, as she wrote on the page, “It’s Pride Month and rainbows abound around the world. Help me bring a rainbow in the midst of Seth’s storm.”

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But people started pledging, and soon the total was climbing into four figures. As Martin explained, “After we hit $2,000, Seth was like, ‘I’m so surprised people actually care about me.’” But they were still way off their target. Despite everything, Owen’s dream of going to college was still just that: a dream.

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After the campaign had been going for several weeks, it had received more than 750 donations. The total? In excess of $50,000. That’s more than double what Owen needed to finish his first year at Georgetown University. And even then, the pledges continued, and before the campaign ended, they had raised a hugely impressive $141,636.

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Martin said, “[Owen has] had so much support and so many people reach out and say ‘You’re not alone,’ and ‘It gets better,’ things that we all need to hear when we’re queer teenagers and are suffering. I’m just excited to have this community come around and put all of our arms together and raise him up.”

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In a GoFundMe update, Owen wrote, “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.” Owen expects to graduate Georgetown University in 2022. In the meantime, a portion of his funds will be used to help other marginalized LGBTQ+ students with their higher education.

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