Gay Student Rejected by Family Gets a Full Ride to Georgetown

Georgetown University has offered a full scholarship to an incoming student who was kicked out of his home because he was gay.

Seth Owen, a recent graduate of First Coast High School, Jacksonville, Florida, had plans to attend Georgetown. Washington, DC, since early 2018—shortly before he left his parents’ house because of his disagreements surrounding his sexuality.

As a sophomore in high school, Owen’s deeply religious parents discovered he was gay and sent him to conversion therapy, according to NBCnews.com. For the next few years, Owen voiced his disagreements with his parents’ Southern Baptist church, even offering to attend a separate one. His parents, however, were unmoved.

Seth Owen

“I started bringing up my disagreements with the church that they attend. I mean, there was just incident after incident,” Owen told the Washington Post. “They talked very negatively about the LGBTQ-plus community. They said that gay people would not serve in the church. Then they were talking about transgender people as though they weren’t human, and that really, really bothered me.”

In February of his senior year of high school, Owen’s parents gave him a choice: to continue to attend church with them or leave the house. For his own safety and sanity, Owen took the ultimatum and left, but soon after was saddled with his new financial reality: he could not afford Georgetown on his own. The financial aid packet the university offered left still included an expected family contribution, now lacking since Owen left his home. With his parents no longer serving as a source of monetary support, he wasn’t able to afford Georgetown anymore.

“I started to cry, because I realized there was no way that I could go to college. Georgetown was my only option, because I had already denied my other acceptances,” Owen told NBC News.

His school community stepped in, organized by his former biology teacher, Jane Martin. Martin, who is also gay, assembled other teachers to figure out how to send Owen to college. They set up a GoFundMe fundraising page to support Owen:

“Seth was just a kid that really stood out to me. He was super ambitious and was always trying to go above and beyond to make sure he could be as successful as possible,” Martin said.

The fundraiser gained speed with a few thousand dollars, but as of August 3rd, community members raised nearly $130,000 to defray the costs of Owen’s college education.

He contacted Georgetown’s Office of Student Financial Services to try and remedy the changed situation. After talking with them in the wake of his viral news story, he was offered a full scholarship to attend the university – bringing his expected contribution of $20,000 to $0 per year. Owen told NBC News:

“While the campaign has been ongoing, the professionals at the Office of Student Financial Services have continued to work with me to make my dream a reality … Due to their efforts and attention, they were able to adjust my aid package even further, my expected contribution is now $0. With these new adjustments, I will be able to attend Georgetown University this fall.”

Owen, who held a 4.61 GPA and was a member of the swim team, expects to carry his ambitions to Georgetown, and to pay it forward by creating a scholarship and other resources for other LGBT students in need.

“At the moment, I am in process of exploring the establishment of a scholarship to help LGBTQ+ scholars who find themselves in the circumstance I was in earlier this year,” Owen explained to The Hill. “I am looking forward to utilizing the resources of Georgetown to help with this effort.”

A move of this magnitude on Georgetown’s part shows that religious conviction and LGBT inclusion are not mutually exclusive. Georgetown is, after all, a Catholic university. Though Owen’s parents were indeed devoted to their religious beliefs, Georgetown’s stepping in to provide financial assistance shows a different kind of religious devotion: one that welcomes all into its house. Supporting LGBT students on Catholic campuses is not antithetical to Church teachings; on the contrary, it is exactly what Catholic campuses should be doing.

On a Jesuit campus such as Georgetown, it is clear that the administration is exercising the Jesuit value of “cura personalis,” or “care of the whole person”—which includes gender and sexuality. If other schools and universities could follow suit, LGBTQ students would be further supported as they should be.

Lindsay Hueston, New Ways Ministry, September 8, 2018

8 replies
  1. Loretta
    Loretta says:

    So encouraging to see the outpouring of support from strangers and the University. He still carries the rejection of his family. So sad.

    Reply
  2. Friends
    Friends says:

    An inspiring story indeed. For the record, I’m aware that the College of the Holy Cross (my own alma mater), and also Amherst College (one of the most prominent undergraduate Ivies), have made similar grants of comprehensive financial empowerment to GLBT students who were disowned by their own families. How parents could be so cruel toward their own children, and how they could act this way in the name of upholding religious values and religious faith, absolutely confounds me. It makes no sense whatsoever. Jesus Himself would have nothing to do with such cruelty and malice.

    Reply
  3. Richard Boyle, OSM
    Richard Boyle, OSM says:

    LOL…and perhaps from this lovely story another “conversion” will take place, from Seth’s Baptist affiliation to the Catholic faith? Georgetown’s “actions speak louder than words.” Thank-you, Georgetown, and to Seth: CONGRATULATIONS!

    Reply
  4. Bishop Carlos Florido, osf
    Bishop Carlos Florido, osf says:

    Wonderful news! We need more of those. Many years ago, i thought that conversion therapy could be an option. Deep research and consultation with professors and colleagues, as well as findings by the APA, convinced me that people are born gay and that is alright and normal. I am quite happy for Seth.

    Reply
  5. Donna Butler, SP
    Donna Butler, SP says:

    Thank you, Georgetown for living Gospel values. Congratulations and blessings to you Seth. I know you will make a positive difference in this world!

    Reply
  6. Sheldon
    Sheldon says:

    They buried the lede. The first part of the story was that Georgetown University refused to give him his scholarship in full because he had been kicked out of his family‘s home, and could not include his parents’ income in the paperwork calculations. After public shaming, Georgetown suddenly reversed their decision and gave him a full ride scholarship. Not really getting the touchy-feelies over this story.

    Reply

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