Seth Owen's dream was to go to college. But after his parents kicked him out for being gay, it felt like he'd never achieve it.
The 18-year-old, who was valedictorian of his graduating class, was all set for the future. With a GPA of 4.16 and an acceptance to his first-choice college — Georgetown — he thought his life had been made.
But Owen's parents — strict Southern Baptists — made him leave home when he refused to go to church or continue any type of conversion treatment. Without his parents' help, he wouldn't be able to afford to go to school.
“I started to cry, because I realized there was no way that I could go to college,” Owen told NBC. “Georgetown was my only option, because I had already denied my other acceptances.”
Seth Owen. Photo via GoFundMe.
It's not uncommon for parents to force their children to leave home when they've come out as gay. Up to 40% of homeless youth in America identify as members of the LGBT+ community. Owen spent his nights on friends' couches, he told NBC. He had no idea what he was going to do next.
But, Jane Martin, Owen's teacher and mentor, knew she had to step in to help.
Knowing that Owen was not the type of person to ask for help, Martin rallied students and faculty together to see what they could do. Martin posted a GoFundMe with the goal of raising $22,000 — enough to fund Owen's first year at Georgetown.
"I taught Seth biology and mentored him throughout his high school years. He was the ring bearer in my wedding. Last month, I watched him walk across the stage in a Jacksonville arena weighted down by more cords and medals to count. I’m writing this community for help," she wrote on GoFundMe.
In six weeks, the community had raised more than $82,000 for Owen. He's still hoping that Georgetown will adjust his financial package and, if they do, he and Martin plan to use the money to create a fund for kids going through the same situation.
Seth Owen (left) , Jane Martin (center) and friends. Photo via GoFundMe.
Martin's act of kindness is the support all students — queer or not — deserve to help them achieve their dreams and express self-love.
“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,” Owen said. “But if you become comfortable with who you are, you're that much more equipped to face these difficult times.”