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A teen whose parents kicked him out of the house and cut him off financially because he is gay now has a shot at his dream of graduating college thanks to the support of friends and strangers, reports The Oklahoman.
Joel Andrew, an 18-year-old freshman who was accepted in Oklahoma City University's esteemed dance program, has raised more than $60,000 to pay for tuition after his dance instructor's daughter set up a GoFundMe campaign sharing his story.
Andrew initially came out to his parents at 12, and was soon sent to a Christian reparative therapist for weekly sessions where he was forced to talk about the "gay" and effeminate things he was doing and was taught how to resist the urge.
"Every night, I would pray to God to make me straight," Andrew told The Oklahoman. "It didn't work."
Andrew says his parents kicked him out of their home in Michigan after he began dating another guy, and refused to sign student loan documents so he could attend OCU after he told them he wouldn't hide his sexuality. They also asked that he stop using his last name.
The crowdfunding page to support Andrew launched with a goal of raising $6,500 to pay for one semester. However, his story soon reached Dan Savage who helped bring attention to the campaign which has now raised $60, 446 - enough to pay for his entire college education.
Andrew's parents have denied their son's claims. However, several friends who spoke with Savage corroborate the teen's story.
"What a few months ago seemed impossible now seems achievable," Andrew writes in a thank you note to supporters on his GoFundMe page. "I'm blown away by the support and words of encouragement from friends, supporters, and strangers. If I had known before that so many people would love me and support me after coming out, I would have done it a long time ago. When I first heard the words 'It Gets Better,' I was skeptical; I didn't believe it was possible. I thought I would be stuck in my small town, surrounded by people who didn't like me, doing something I hated. Now I will have the chance to make something of myself and all of you have had a huge part in making that dream a reality."
Watch The Oklahoman's video report on Andrew's story below.