Her student was kicked out for being gay. This teacher made his college dreams come true.

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.”

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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