When Darrell Driskell learned that Van Horn High School was going to become a part of the Independence School District, the Falcon alum made a promise to his two sons, Aaron and Zachary, and to himself.

When Darrell Driskell learned that Van Horn High School was going to become a part of the Independence School District, the Falcon alum made a promise to his two sons, Aaron and Zachary, and to himself.

“I knew that things were going to get better and I wanted to be a part of it,” Driskell said. “I even got out my old letter jacket – and no, it doesn’t fit any more – and my yearbooks and looked at them with my boys.

“When they saw the yearbooks, they got all excited and asked, ‘Do you think things will be like that while we’re at Van Horn?’ I looked them eye to eye and said, ‘Yes, I really do.’”

One of the first things Driskell did was take some parents and his sons to the gymnasium. They brought paint brushes and red and silver paint and made the gym look like the home of the Falcons – and not a prison workout area.

“The first time the girls walked into the gym and saw that it had been painted the school colors, well, it’s a moment I’ll never forget,” said volleyball coach Cristin Nowak, a former star player at Truman High School. “Parents like Mr. Driskell can make a huge difference. Just ask any member of our team.”

Driskell is one of the more enthusiastic members of the brand new Van Horn Booster Club.

“Parents, student/athletes, fans just take it for granted that their schools have booster clubs,” Van Horn activities director John Ihm said. “We didn’t have one. When I organized the first meeting, to begin the process of building a booster club, I didn’t know what to expect. We had all our coaches on hand and Darrell was there and so were some other parents. The numbers were small, but we think they will grow. And you couldn’t ask for a better group to work with.”

While Driskell has two sons at Van Horn, 1975 grad Jay Fisher has jumped into the rebuilding mode at Van Horn despite not having a son or daughter at the high school.

“Let me make a point of reference,” Fisher said, prior to a booster club meeting in the school library. “When I was here in the mid 1970s, booster clubs were never an issue. We had them – just like every other school had a booster club.

“You might not know that the Interscholastic League didn’t have baseball, but we had baseball at Van Horn because we had parents that supported it and a coach – and the best math teacher in the world, Mr. Otto Kaifes -– who got it done.

“And I bet a young man named Rick Sutcliffe was happy we had baseball back then because he certainly did well for himself (winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cy Young Award with the Chicago Cubs).

“Right now, I see a cause for hope. That hasn’t always been the case. This school has been headed in such a negative direction for such a long time that when you say you went to Van Horn, you get that ‘You graduated from Van Horn?' look. Well, that's a look that's going to disappear.”

Before the start of the meeting, Driskell unloads a massive cardboard box filled with Van Horn hats, T-shirts, hoodies and sweatshirts.

“I went out last year and had my own Van Horn baseball cap made up," Driskell said. “Can you believe that? They didn't even have hats for the parents or kids to wear.”

Now, as the fans flood the gates at a football game or pack the gym for a home volleyball match, the Van Horn gear is everywhere.

When Jim Hinson, the superintendent of the Independence School District, attended the Falcons homecoming football game, he was decked out in red and silver.

“It’s a new day, a wonderful day, at Van Horn High School,” Hinson said, “and it’s the administrators, teachers, students and parents who are making it happen.”

As the stands fill up at All-School Stadium, the hardest working man outside of the football players, is Fisher, who is in charge of selling the 50/50 raffle tickets.

Fans can purchase a ticket for a dollar, or an arm’s span worth of tickets for $10. At the end of the game, the winning lottery ticket is announced and the fan who has that ticket wins half the jackpot. With the other half going to the booster club.

The homecoming game winner donated his share of the raffle back to the high school.

“That’s the type of school sprit I’m talking about,” Fisher said, sweat dripping from his brow and running down his face. “People care about Van Horn High School again. It’s a new beginning, an opportunity to reach for your dreams.”

Driskell is eager to reach for a dream, and not his slacks.

“I’ll be honest with you,” he said, grinning. “I didn’t go to the school much because I got so tired of taking my belt off every time I entered the school. My belt buckle set off that darned metal detector every time. I don’t know how the kids stood it.”

Driskell paused for a moment, and added, “Thank goodness those days are history.”

Aaron Driskell, a sophomore basketball and baseball player at Van Horn, agrees.

“It’s tough to tell people you go to a school with a metal detector,” Aaron said. “Now, I don’t even think about things like that. I see all the school spirit, all the people who attend the football and volleyball and soccer games and I can’t wait for basketball to get started.

“This school is 50 years old, but it’s all brand new to me and the other students. We know we’re part of something special and we’re going to do everything we can to make it one of the greatest schools in the state.”