Seth’s world changed the moment his parents discovered his sexual identity. After being forced to move out due to religious differences, his financial stability crumbled. It seemed unlikely he’d fulfill his longtime dream of attending a prestigious university. Then, a trusted high school teacher started a GoFundMe to help Seth afford tuition. Now 19 and a freshman at Georgetown University, Seth is paying it forward. He’s not only giving other LGBTQ+ students scholarship money —he’s also giving them hope.
In Seth’s words, the story of Unbroken Horizons from his interview on GoFundMe’s podcast, True Stories of Good People:
I grew up in a very constrictive religious home in Jacksonville —it was definitely past conservative. I spent over 10 hours at church every week, and my parents were very, very conservative in their beliefs. That’s why I was so afraid of them finding out that I am gay.
That moment came during my sophomore year of high school. One night, my father searched my phone and found a photo of me kissing my first boyfriend. He woke my mother up and they questioned me until about 4:30 in the morning. I was in complete shock.
After that, my parents made me see a conversion therapist. The therapy sessions were some of the hardest moments of my life. I had two years left until I turned 18, and all I wanted was to be comfortable and safe until I was out of high school. I tried my best to make the conversion therapy work, but it didn’t work. I went to a real therapist afterward, and they said there was nothing they could do for me because being gay is just who I am.
The tension with my parents kept building up. During my senior year of high school, there was a new pastor at my church who was very aggressive with his messages. It scared me to see the hate inside those walls. The pastor said that children have to obey their parents regardless of the circumstances - even if they’re being abused.
I couldn’t stand silent anymore, and the tension with my parents exploded. I told them that attending that church three times a week would be condoning the pastor’s message, so I offered to attend any other church they approved of. But my dad told me I had to attend their church or move out. I packed my bags and moved out of my childhood home that night with less than $50 in my bank account. I started couchsurfing with friends and a few distant relatives, and I eventually moved in with my best friend and her family.
About a month and a half after my parents kicked me out, I found out I was accepted into Georgetown University. I was absolutely thrilled, but then I realized my financial aid package was based on my parents’ income. There was about a $20,000 gap between me and Georgetown, and my parents wouldn’t cosign a loan for me.
I remember feeling really defeated and thinking that all of my hard work to get into school was for nothing. I asked my teacher, Jane Martin, what to do. She said, “We’re going to find a way. I’m going to start a GoFundMe.”
At first I didn’t think I could ask strangers for money to pay for college, but I kept reassuring myself that people were helping me because they had faith that I would turn around and do something good with their donations. I had a lot to live up to, but I also had a lot of people behind me. That kept me going during some of my darkest moments.
The original goal for the GoFundMe that Jane started was $20,000, but we ended up raising over $141,000. Then the question became, “What am I going to do with all of this extra money?” And the answer was obvious—I wanted to inspire other people to stand up and do what was best for themselves.
So I used the leftover funds to start Unbroken Horizons, a nonprofit scholarship foundation. Our vision at Unbroken Horizons is to help students in marginalized communities access post-secondary education and give them a platform to speak up and tell their truth. By telling their truth, they’re empowering others to live authentically.
Now, I work as the president and the chair of the board of directors, and we have a team of about 30 volunteers. This fall, we’re awarding five $2,500 scholarships to LGBTQ+ students of color, and from there we’re hoping to expand. To help our mission become a reality, I launched my own GoFundMe so that others can support Unbroken Horizons and the work we do.
I’m so excited about the journey I’m now headed on. Along with running Unbroken Horizons, I’m double majoring in government and African American studies at Georgetown. My goal is to eventually go to law school and work as a juvenile defense lawyer, then possibly pursue a political career.
To finally express my true identity after being caged up for so long is such an amazing feeling. It’s wonderful to be able to look in the mirror and say, “I love the person standing here.” If I can give that feeling to just one other person, I’ll feel like my life is a success.