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Sixteen years. Seven states. One country and United States territory.

The travel inside the United States alone exceeds 12,000 miles, but now a junior at Derby High School, Antigone Colon has fully embraced the life of being in a military family.

Colon, who rightfully describes herself as an extrovert, carries a boisterous personality and it has served her well through her life.

She is one of two sisters in the family (including older sibling Caitlin) and began her junior year in August. Due to her father’s terms in the military, the family moves every two years and this will be her last year in Derby.

“It’s kind of interesting but it’s the same thing my sister had to do,” she said. “It’s the life of a military kid.”

Seeing your parent be deployed is understandably difficult.

As a child, Colon said she’d see her father deployed frequently and it would sometimes be for six months to a year.

Now primarily focusing on volleyball in high school, she remembers not having him at many of her events.

“I’d play sports in elementary school and my dad couldn’t be there because he was deployed or at work,” Colon added.

As the years have progressed, deployments have shrunk and in the time spent in Kansas and on McConnell Air Force Base, her parents have seen virtually every volleyball match she has played in Derby.

When it came time to first move to Kansas, Colon admits there was some reluctancy in moving to the Sunflower State initially thanks to “The Wizard of Oz.” However, she’s quickly found a home in the halls of Derby High School.

“I was 15 moving here and I had never been to Kansas and never thought we’d get stationed here,” she said. “It was a lot of open land … where we live is so much farming. At first I thought, ‘woah, we can get swept up in a tornado here.’ I kind of like it now. Derby is kind of small and everybody knows everybody. I’ve gotten used to it.”

Colon has also put her roots in Student 2 Student, a program that coincides with the Military Child Education Coalition and helps service and civilian kids decrease the stress of a new school and grow in their new community.

Derby High School welcomes roughly 300 new students per year and its chapter of Student 2 Student is led by teacher and volleyball head coach Shelby Kraus.

Colon said it’s a critical program for military families. The junior shared that one of her good friends saw their father deployed for six months, home for two weeks and then deployed again for another six months.

“You have military students who moved here and you understand they’re in the same boat as you,” she said. “It’s easier to bond with them.”

She had the luxury of being in school with her sister for all but two years. Caitlin also learned what it was like to attend a different school for just her senior year, giving the youngest Colon perspective as she prepares for the unknown of 2020-21.

She said it’s important for active military and all new students to put themselves out there and embrace the unknown of potential upcoming changes.

“I’ve done it so often that once I get to school, I’ll make my friends and [get ready to make changes in two years],” she said. “I’m not going to be here to graduate with them, but it helps me know how to handle that.”

After primarily playing JV a year ago, Colon has carved an active role on the court for Kraus.

The junior and her teammates are 8-2 overall (as of Sept. 16) after sweeping both Salina schools in the Salina Central Triangular and also finishing 5-1 in the AVCTL Preseason Tournament in Hutchinson.

Colon, who is also involved in ROTC in Derby, said she and her family will learn of their next destination in December. In the meantime, she’s embracing her days as a Panther.

“I’m going to live it to my max,” she said. “I’m not going to see these people next year. It’s the last year I’ll see [my friends] and it’s sad to say, but it’s how it is.”

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