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.
“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.
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