By KIMEKO MCCOY
Since Nease High School senior John Hutton was a youngster, community service always seemed to be his niche.
Even today as a 450th Youth Ambassador, Hutton uses his leadership and service skills to create his own role as tour guide in the nation’s oldest city.
Putting community first
Hutton’s first experiences with community service stem from his time in the Boy Scouts and the youth group at the Memorial Presbyterian Church.
Boy Scouts has been a big part of his life since kindergarten and his mother, Nancy Hutton, said the organization really fostered participation in volunteer projects.
“Boy Scouts really fosters community service because to earn some of their merit badges, they have to actually do community service,” she said.
Growing in the organization, her son went on to become the troop’s senior patrol leader and is currently working on earning the highest rank one can earn as a Boy Scout: Eagle Scout.
To achieve it, the youth said the requirement is to complete a community service-oriented project.
He said his project will be to build a period-style chicken coop for the Ximenez-Fatio House located in downtown St. Augustine.
Because of his long background in scouting, Hutton said he hopes to continue on in the organization and become leader of a troop.
In addition to scouting, Hutton also became involved with the Memorial Presbyterian Church Youth Group.
He said that group caters to the community as well, and just last week wrapped up hosting its Veterans Day luncheon.
This summer, the group is going on a mission trip to Tennessee to participate in Appalachia Service Project (ASP).
“Community service is to me, helping other people and also leaving a legacy of yourself to the world through your service,” he said.
Becoming an ambassador
In 2011, Hutton stretched out his arms a little bit further to do even more volunteering and became a 450th Youth Ambassador.
Originally, he found out about the program through his brother, who was involved in Youth Leadership St. Johns.
Nancy Birchall, 450th Youth Ambassador Director, also was in charge of the leadership organization and encouraged Hutton to join the Youth Ambassadors.
“My mom told me that we were just going to go to monthly meetings and tour historic locations and it just sounded like a fun thing to do,” he said.
He’s since become involved with the organization whole-heartedly and is currently the sound technician for the production “Young Voices in the Old City.”
Before, Hutton said he knew about the attractions and the history, but he’s become better at presenting them to other people.
“Being in the Youth Ambassadors has let me become a better tour guide and ambassador to people visiting the city,” he said.
His favorite historic visit so far has been the Villa Zorayda. Hutton said that he’d driven past the building before, but never quite knew what it was about.
The hidden gem really sparked Hutton’s interest and he was excited to learn about it as well as other historic St. Augustine properties and teach the history to others.
“I find that when I have family come in from out of town or when we have guests come stay with us, I can tell them about all the things we do here,” he said, “and that’s something that I couldn’t do before Youth Ambassadors.”
With public speaking opportunities and other leadership skills offered, Hutton said being an ambassador has really helped him shine in all aspects of community leadership.
His mother said the program has been awesome.
“Youth Ambassadors has just been a great program for him to learn about the history of St. Augustine,” she said.
Juggling it all at once
On top of his duties as Boy Scouts, Youth Ambassador, and Memorial Presbyterian Youth Group member, Hutton also finds time to be a student.
He’s involved in the International Baccalaureate Program (IB) program at Nease.
According to the program’s website, it is devoted to helping develop the “intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world.”
“It’s a rigorous, challenging thing,” he said.
it also offers another opportunity to serve the public.
Nancy Hutton said her son was a team leader for the program’s beach clean-up project in ninth and 10th grade.
Although much of Hutton’s time is dedicated to volunteering, he has a soft spot in his heart for music.
“I’ve always liked music,” said the youth, who plays piano and counts jazz and classical clarinet music among his favorites.
Hutton plays the clarinet as the clarinet section leader in the Nease High band, which numbers about 150 students.
He said he puts in up to 20 hours of band practice time per week to gear up for competitions.
“The Nease band is very competitive,” he said. “We compete most Saturdays during marching band season.”
As of now, Hutton is juggling this all at once, and luckily he has the support of his family.
“He keeps up with it and I keep up with some of it,” his mother said.
After high school
After graduating from high school, Hutton wants to pursue a college degree in the science field, saying that he’s always enjoyed working with cells and other things in biology.
But his closer vision is to participate in Rotary Youth Exchange next year. Basically, he said, that participation means taking community service abroad. Hutton said he wants to go to a country in South America to hone the Spanish skills he’s been studying in school.
Expanding his reach to embrace the community has him excited to start the program.
“I think our society exists because people help each other,” he said. “Without the willingness of other people to help each other, we would just flounder as a society.”