Seth Owen: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

GoFundMe Seth Owen

Seth Owen is a brainy Florida teenager who was named valedictorian of his school — but his deeply religious parents kicked him out of their home and vowed not to spend a penny on his college education. They were upset because they had discovered that Seth was gay and he refused to continue “conversion therapy,” a controversial program intended to “turn him straight.” Seth’s parents — and their church — are firm believers in filial obedience, and his father told Seth that he would be within his biblical rights to stone him for disobedience.

Seth had his heart set on going to Georgetown University, but without his parents’ financial support, that seemed impossible. He was devastated.

A teacher at his school set up a GoFundMe page. So far the page has raised over 80,000 dollars.  It also got a lot of media attention, and shone a spotlight on Seth’s situation.

Recently, Seth’s coach, Kaylee Petik, contacted Heavy with an update. She announced that Georgetown University adjusted Seth’s financial aid package so that he will be fully covered — he won’t be expected to contribute any money for his tuition or fees. And Seth is going to start classes at Georgetown in the fall.

Here’s what you need to know:


1. After Seth’s Parents Found Out That He Was Gay, They Forced Him To Go To “Conversion Therapy.” Finally He Couldn’t Take It Any More

GoFundMe

Seth’s parents were deeply religious, devout members of Pecan Park Baptist Church, a conservative church in the north side of Jacksonville, Florida. You can read the church’s mission statement here. Seth’s whole family is involved in the church: his father, Randy, is the church deacon, and his mother is the church’s treasurer. His oldest brother is a former pastor.

Seth’s parents had no idea that their son was gay. But one night, Seth said, his father spent a few hours going through Seth’s phone, and he found a picture that showed him that his son was gay. Seth said that the picture wasn’t sexual, or pornographic — it was a picture of him and another boy holding hands.

After that, Seth said his parents sent him to see a counselor. The goal of counseling, Seth said, was clearly to make him straight. He said, “They made it clear the intention was to make me straight. (That) was their end goal.”

That kind of highly controversial therapy is known as “conversion therapy” because it aims to “convert” someone from being gay to being straight. After a while, Seth said he just couldn’t take it any more. And he was fed up with his parents’ conservative church, where the pastor preached against the LGBT community.

After Seth quit therapy and refused to return to church, his parents kicked him out of the house. That left Seth homeless — just two thirds of the way through his senior year of high school.


2. Seth’s Father, Randy, Said He Told Seth The Bible Gave Him The Right To ‘Stone’ Him For Being Disobedient

Seth’s family is deeply involved in their church — which made things very difficult when Seth started to rebel against the church’s doctrines. Seth was upset by the pastor’s stance on the LGBT community. But that wasn’t the only thing that bothered him. He hated the sermons that talked about how women are inferior to men. And the church — Pecan Park Baptist Church — also taught that children were to be obedient to their parents, no matter what, even in cases of abuse.

For Seth, that was the last straw. He told First Coast News, “I cannot sit there in the pew in silence accepting that.”

Seth’s father, Randy, was a staunch member of his church who believed in the importance of obedience. He said he had told all of his children that biblically, he and their mother would have the right to “stone” them if they were disobedient. He told First Coast News, “I’ve made that comment to every one of my children — that in the Bible, in Biblical days, that a disobedient child, that they would stone him.”

Randy said that he didn’t exactly kick Seth out of the house. But he confirmed that he had told Seth that if Seth didn’t worship at Pecan Park, he wasn’t welcome in the house any more.

“As far as kicking him out because he wouldn’t attend the church we attend — that’s a lie,” Randy said in a phone interview with First Coast News. “I made clear we are not kicking him out, but we worship as a family. He’s allowed to live here as long as he worships the same way we worship.”


3. After Seth’s Parents Kicked Him Out, He Was Homeless. He Still Graduated At the Top of His Class

Seth’s parents kicked him out of their house in February, after he quit going to their church. That left the teenager, a senior in high school, homeless.

He slept on friends’ couches. His favorite teachers and mentors helped him out as much as they could. And Seth worked part time to pay for his expenses.

And through it all, Seth kept up his grades. When he graduated, he had a 4.16 GPA, and his school named him co-valedictorian. His parents did not attend his graduation.


4. Seth Had Already Been Admitted to Georgetown — But Without His Parents’ Support, He Had No Way of Paying the $77,000 Tuition

Seth Owen’s GoFundMe campaign

Seth’s dream was to attend the prestigious, and pricey, Georgetown University. He had already been admitted to Georgetown when his parents kicked him out. But after they disowned him, it started to look like his dream was out of reach.

Georgetown’s tuition, for four years, is $77,000. When the university accepted Seth, they expected his parents to pick up the tab and pay his tuition. After Seth’s parents kicked him out, he contacted the university to ask if they could help him — with a scholarship, or with financial aid — to pay for the school. But at first, even after Seth’s teachers and mentors wrote to Georgetown, the university refused to do anything.

That would have left Seth with a bill for $22,000 for his first year of college, which was completely out of reach for the homeless 18 year old.

Finally, in early August, Georgetown came through with a new financial aid package. Seth’s coach, Kaylee Petik, reached out to Heavy to say that Georgetown had amended Seth’s financial aid package so that he won’t have to contribute to his tuition or other fees.


5. Seth’s Biology Teacher Started a GoFundMe Page to Pay His Tuition. Now He Has Enough Money To Pay for All Four Years of College

Jane Martin is a biology teacher who acted as Seth’s unofficial mentor and friend. He even acted as the ring bearer at her wedding.

After Seth’s parents kicked him out, Martin started a GoFundMe page to help Seth pay for Georgetown’s tuition. You can visit that page here.

Already, the page has raised more than $80,000 — which means that Seth will be fully funded for college.

Jane Martin 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.”

Seth wrote in to thank everyone who had donated to his GoFundMe campaign, writing, “I have been shown by an abundance of loving and generous people that Jacksonville is a place of growth and support. I appreciate that you all have given me the reassurance to live authentically and the ability to continue to be relentless and tenacious in pursuing my dreams.”

Finally, in early August, Georgetown came through with a new financial aid package. Seth’s coach, Kaylee Petik, reached out to Heavy to say that Georgetown had amended Seth’s financial aid package so that he won’t have to contribute to his tuition or other fees.

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