Susan Crone, C '88 and teacher at Thurmont Elementary School in Thurmont, Md., helps support students in a one-room school in Costa Rica.
Article Courtesy of the Frederick News Post
By: Pete McCarthy, News-Post Staff
Susan and Chuck Crone never went on a real honeymoon, so they decided five years ago to visit a friend in Costa Rica.
They had no idea the getaway would lead them to help a teacher and her less fortunate students.
The Thurmont couple have returned every year since and brought books and other supplies to the teacher.
On their last trip in June, they delivered close to 250 books and other supplies.
It all started with a chance encounter, Susan explained in an interview at her home.
A former co-worker of her husband had opened a restaurant and hotel in the Costa Rican town of Ojochal. He offered to show them the sights during the visit.
Knowing Susan Crone was a teacher at Thurmont Elementary School, he suggested they stop at a one-room school.
"It was like walking in a place you didn't think existed anymore," Susan said. "I couldn't imagine how that woman did her job because there was nothing. Yet there they were, learning."
The school is not easy to find. It is a 45-minute drive from where the Crones stay, according to Chuck.
They have to go up a gravel road, sometimes waiting for chickens to cross before they can continue.
"They don't have much," Chuck said of the residents. "It's unbelievable."
That first visit to the tiny, one-room school in San Francisco, Costa Rica, was enough to open their eyes.
"I am a Christian, but my mission is education," Susan said. "I know (the teacher) has a very strong desire to help those kids learn."
They saw the woman teaching about 15 children in a room with concrete floors, old wooden desks, and few supplies other than chalk.
"Just realizing how limited their materials are when we have so much in this country to help our children learn," Susan said. "She's doing the same job with nothing."
The Crones decided they needed to help, but not just a one-time gift. They started collecting supplies from friends and colleagues.
They sent the first care package in the mail, but Susan said she soon realized it was more cost-effective to pack the books and supplies in their suitcases.
They usually spend a few hours over the course of one or two days at the school.
"They just are so excited when we get there," Susan said. "I know that it is appreciated."
More recently, the family has used their own funds to buy supplies -- usually a few hundred dollars a year.
Susan spends all year picking up little things she sees at stores.
"Goodwill is my best friend," Susan said. "I don't know how (the teacher) is going to use all the supplies, but she'll figure out a way."
Over the years, the family has shipped the school close to 1,000 books, Susan said.
There is a language gap. The teacher speaks little English and Susan said she has learned limited Spanish.
Still, the Crones feel they are doing the right thing.
"I can just see a difference," Susan said. "Someone finally took an interest in this school."
They see some of the same children from year to year. When she hears them using English words, Susan said, she knows the students are learning from what they bring. The school had only one book in English during their first visit.
"It's very gratifying to see the changes and the progress," she said. "We're grateful for everything we have. We want to share what we have with them."
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