In their resignation letter, Ethan and Amanda Hutton make it clear their decision to leave Schuyler Central High School for Costa Rica was not easy to make.
“I really love my kids,” said Amanda. “It’s really hard to leave them.”
Amanda has taught Spanish for three years and Ethan has taught biology for two. They’ve also been coaches, Amanda for the dance team and Ethan for soccer.
But they both feel they’ve been called to work with the nonprofit Seeds of Hope to educate and connect with at-risk youth in Costa Rica.
“It’s really going to be tough to leave — it is,” said Ethan. “But we feel that those kids really need us. And the kids here in Schuyler, they're going to survive.”
“They'll be fine without us,” Amanda added.
Ethan called the decision to move "a leap of faith."
“(We’re) trusting that God is going to guide us along the way," he said.
The two became acquainted with Seeds of Hope through Amanda’s work with a network marketing company called Trades of Hope.
A friend who introduced Amanda to Trades of Hope told her Seeds of Hope was looking for help.
“I contacted the heads of Seeds of Hope in Costa Rica and sent an email that said, ‘Here's who we are, how can we help?'" said Amanda. “And their response was, ‘We need full-time missionaries and you guys would fit the job.”
The Huttons had a connection to the Central American country before reaching out to the nonprofit. Ethan visited once in college as a biology major.
“I emphasized the study of birds, so Costa Rica is ideal for that,” he said.
Two years ago the couple traveled there together to do a language immersion program over the summer break. Seeds of Hope recommended they visit the organization before committing to becoming missionaries.
“They said that's the only way you'll really know,” Amanda said.
The couple spent four days there last summer to learn more about the mission.
“We completely fell in love with it,” said Ethan.
But there were a few hurdles along the way.
For one, Amanda learned she was pregnant right before they visited Costa Rica. This was especially concerning since the Zika virus was reported in the area they were visiting.
“So we were a little nervous, but we believed we were being called down there,” said Amanda. “It ended up being fine and I stayed inside a lot of the time with bug spray.”
“That was a test of faith,” she added.
Another test came when their daughter Aubree was born 10 weeks premature while they were on vacation in Minnesota. While waiting for her to be discharged from the neonatal intensive care unit, they worried her compromised immune system and other health issues common with premature infants would mean they couldn’t go to Costa Rica.
“But the clinic OK'd it,” said Amanda. “By the end of her stay they said she was pretty healthy.”
During the mission they will run what’s called a clubhouse, where teenagers living in the slums take classes to supplement their education and receive support and guidance. Many teenagers living in Costa Rica’s slums are forced into prostitution or drug trafficking to support their family.
“It’s helping kids that desperately need it,” said Amanda.
While they were there the Huttons met Seeds of Hope teachers who went through the program as teenagers and found a way out of poverty. The goal is for the staff to consist mainly of graduates of the program.
“That's where the true beauty comes in, where you've had kids who've made it out of the cycle of poverty. They've broken the chain,” said Ethan. “And they can relate with these kids more than we can because they've been through it.”
The Huttons are also looking forward to their roles as educators and mentors.
“It’s everything we loved about teaching here. He can do teach biology, I can teach English and teach the Bible. And we're going to be teaching things we love — yoga, dance,” said Amanda. “I'll be teaching yoga and dance, not him.”
They’re also looking forward to raising their daughter in a bilingual environment.
“Much of the current educational research suggests bilingual students have more probable chances of success than monolingual students,” said Ethan. “She'll get to experience the different culture, the different language.”
“I'm kind of jealous of her,” said Amanda. “I spent all these years studying Spanish in schools and she's going to just have it.”
Amanda can imagine how differently Aubree’s childhood will be from hers.
“We'll be living in a beach town, which is funny because we're so uncool,” she said. “She'll probably grow up to be this little surfer, this little beach kid, and we'll just be her dorky parents with socks and sandals.”
While they’re looking forward to their new life, they’re still struggling to say good-bye to the community that showed them so much support when Aubree was born.
“We're not leaving because we don't love Schuyler,” Amanda said. “We're leaving because we have a greater purpose we feel we need to serve.”