The Derby bloodlines in the Crittenden home run deeper after Saturday’s graduation.
Chad, who is a part of the 2019 senior class, joined his mother Lisa (Kersting) Crittenden, grandmother Evelyn (Schwartz) Kersting and great-grandparents Walter and Anna (Weston) Schwartz as Panther graduates.
The graduation comes 107 years after his great-grandfather Walter graduated. Each generation went to high school in a different building, but shares an affinity for Panther green.
“Knowing the history from my grandparents and parents, and seeing the changes in the schools since she’s been in school and the opportunities Chad has had, we have a great school system here,” Lisa said. “Lots of opportunities for kids that we didn’t have even when I went to school.”
Evelyn’s school roots began in a country school near 55th and Oliver in the 1930s and ’40s. She went to that building until eighth grade before joining Derby High School, which at the time was the current Derby Historical Museum. She graduated in 1947.
“We had a wood stove in the corner of my classroom [at the country school] to keep it warm in the winter and had one teacher at one point for two years. I actually had only four teachers through those eight years [1st-8th grade],” Evelyn said.
Kersting said there were about 100 students at the school at the time and she graduated with approximately 18 classmates. Her father Walter was born in Derby before his 1912 graduation. Her mother Anna moved to the area from western Kansas when she was 10 years old. She graduated one year after Walter in 1913.
One of the biggest changes in the last 100-plus years? A graduating class of near 500 students for her grandson Chad.
It represents an academic career that nearly began in Clearwater before his family moved to Derby and before Chad started kindergarten at El Paso Elementary.
“I remember walking through the door and thinking, ‘I don’t know anybody here,’” Chad said.
The journey paid off for Chad, who is the youngest of his siblings. He got involved in music during his time in Derby schools, playing in the Kansas Masonic All-State Marching Band at the Shrine Bowl for the past two years and will also be joining them this summer in Dodge City.
“If we [hadn’t moved from Clearwater], it would have been drastically different,” Chad said. “I would have gone to a 4A school and I wouldn’t have met 90 percent of the people I know now. I wouldn’t have been a Panther like everyone else in my family.”
It’s exactly what Lisa had hoped for her youngest son, seeing him walk some of the same hallways she did prior to her Derby High School graduation in 1983. She remembers her morning walks to Swaney Elementary, picking up friends along the brief walk from home to school.
“We wanted to be here, but we hadn’t settled on it,” she said of making the move back to Derby before Chad began school. “The timing just happened to be perfect as it was time to buy a house. It was just a matter of where we wanted to buy.”
Sitting inside Charles Koch Arena on Saturday afternoon, she said it was the perfect day for her family’s lineage in Derby.
“I had a quick flashback to my own graduation, crossing the stage at Century II ... and I wondered what my grandparents would think, seeing such a big class of successful DHS students graduating,” Lisa said. “We may still have more generations go through as Chad would like to come back to teach after college. I would love to see a fifth generation of our family grow up in Derby schools.”