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, which ultimately raised more than $140,000, to make sure the Jacksonville 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 of them are people of color, and three are women. They will be honored at a gala and will receive their scholarships on July 12 in Jacksonville.
“I’m so proud of their perseverance. … I cannot wait to see what they are able to do with the assistance the foundation will be providing,” Owen said. He plans to expand the amount of the awards and the number of recipients in the future.
This morning, Owen was honored as a GoFundMe Hero for his LGBTQ advocacy.
“They highlight one person a month who has given back to their community,” Owen said. “It’s nice that they are recognizing the work we are doing as a foundation.”
Owen’s story got national exposure last year after his high school biology teacher started a GoFundMe campaign to 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 on the GoFundMe campaign. “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 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, who gave him refuge after leaving his parents’ home.
His relationship with his parents remains strained.
“I still communicate with them because I have six nieces and nephews, and I want to stay in their life,” Owen said. But he acknowledges that “it’s not a healthy relationship.”
“It’s very sad that we’re both missing out on what could be a wonderful relationship,” he said. He added that “maybe one day” it will be better.