Seth Owen has come a long way since his parents kicked him out of their home because he’s gay, leaving him with no way to pay for his Georgetown education. Now, he’s giving back to the community and being honored for his LGBTQ advocacy.
Owen’s story spread across the nation last year when his high school teacher shared his plight and started a GoFundMe campaign, which ultimately raised more than $140,000, to make sure the Jacksonville, Fla., teenager got to go to his dream school.
In March, Owen, 19, told his supporters that he would pay it forward: He created a nonprofit, with a $25,000 donation from Ellen DeGeneres, to help other kids in need to attend college.
His Unbroken Horizons Scholarship Foundation now has raised a total of $35,000 and has chosen five students to get the first $2,500 scholarships. The students are a diverse group: four are people of color, and three are women. They were honored at a gala July 12, during which they received their scholarships.
“I’m so proud of their perseverance,” Owen said. “I cannot wait to see what they are able to do with the assistance the foundation will be providing.” He plans to expand the amount of the awards and the number of recipients in the future.
Owen was recently honored as a GoFundMe Hero for his LGBTQ advocacy.
Owen’s high school biology teacher described his plight in the GoFundMe campaign, which helped cover the gap between what Georgetown would cover and what was expected to come from Owen or his parents.
“Earlier this year (after a year of attempted conversion therapy), Seth’s parents gave him an ultimatum,” teacher Jane Martin wrote.
“He would either continue to attend the church that outwardly attacked him and his sexual orientation or he would need to leave home. For his own well-being and safety, Seth chose the later.”
The response was overwhelming. Now, Owen said he thinks of Washington, D.C., as home.
“Georgetown is everything I’ve dreamed of,” said Owen, who plans to double major in government and African-American studies. The school continues to work with him on paying for his education.
He also had the opportunity to work for U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Winter Park, in Washington.
“I had so much fun in her office,” he said. “It was a wonderful experience.”
Owen is spending the summer in Jacksonville, doing fundraising for his foundation and working as a motivational speaker. He is staying with his best friend’s family.
His relationship with his parents is strained, but he remains hopeful.
“I still communicate with them because I have six nieces and nephews, and I want to stay in their life,” Owen said.
“It’s very sad that we’re both missing out on what could be a wonderful relationship,” he said, adding that “maybe one day” it will be better.