Strangers donate $90K to send gay valedictorian to college after parents reportedly reject him

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Credit: DaytonDailyNews

What began as a community  GoFundMe page to send a gay valedictorian rejected by his parents to college has exploded, multiplying by thousands of dollars a day.

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The story of Jacksonville, Fla. student Seth Owen, 18, has prompted thousands to give.

The original goal was to raise $20,000, the tuition bill for Georgetown University, where Owen is headed in the fall. He'd originally had a financial aid package, but it was contingent on parental support.

Seth Owen
Seth Owen

In the single day since   NBC News reported about Owen's parents kicking him out of his home and his Georgetown University scholarship being threatened, his GoFundMe page   has soared to more than $90,000. It continues to grow. 

Owen's former biology teacher Jane Martin created the GoFundMe page for him. She ventured a guess in recent   tweet, saying "This campaign is bigger than just #sethowen."   

Seth Owen's story

The Florida student earned a scholarship with his 4.16 GPA to prestigious Georgetown University. But the scholarship was contingent on financial assistance from his parents.

Owen said his parents, who are Southern Baptists, gave him an ultimatum: He could leave their home or attend a church that "outwardly attacked him and his sexual orientation," according to the  GoFundMe page. He chose to leave, "for his own wellbeing and safety."

Owen said his parents had already sent him to an "awkward  conversion therapy" because of his sexuality for a few months before he convinced them to stop.

The campaign page continued: "He's been living with friends and working to sustain himself financially since. His parents have refused to support him emotionally or financially because they deem his sexual orientation inconsistent with their religious beliefs."

Owen was sleeping on friends' couches for a few weeks when the financial aid package and tuition total from Georgetown arrived. He didn't have a second option because he denied all other acceptance letters.

 “I was just devastated once again," he said.

A teacher steps in

Martin, the biology teacher, told NBC News that she met with other students and teachers to try and help Owen, knowing that he wouldn't ask for help. The original goal to raise $20,000 for Owen's first year of tuition seemed impossible and unrealistic, but they had to try for 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."                

She created the campaign on June 18 and has watched it grow ever since.

No tolerance for LGBTQ injustice

In an update on his GoFundMe page, Owen thanked the donors saying,   "My dreams have come true because of you all." 

He said he's been contacted by others who are going through similar situations and it's clear that he's not alone.

"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. Your passionate response to my situation reassures me that Jacksonville (and our country) will not tolerate injustices towards the LGBTQ+ community.                

"...So, I ask that you all continue to be allies in whatever capacity, not just for the LGBTQ+ community, but for all marginalized groups."