’21 grads reflect on lessons from CF as they pursure aspirations

Last year, seniors left a mark after leaving to enter into the next chapter of their lives, and 2021 graduates Daniel Mitchell, Rachel Brokenshire, Sabrina Leistikow and Hunter Peterson are all experiencing life outside of high school.


How has your life changed after high school?

Sabrina LeistikowI would say my life has changed as much as any person does when they go to college. I am involved in a sorority and campus ministry, which has helped me develop many leadership skills and realize more about who I am and what I want to be. I am taking a variety of classes that have helped me gauge what my passions and hobbies are. I recently went on a class trip to the Backbone State Park a few weeks ago, which helped me rekindle my love for camping. Finally, through meeting new people and making friends, I’ve learned how to communicate better with others to develop great bonds and connections. 

Hunter Peterson- Since leaving high school the main parts of my life have stayed the same. I live in the same town and work the same job at Target. The big changes are I moved into my own place, started to have recurring monthly expenses and joined a campus ministry.

Rachel Brokenshire- I would say the biggest difference is I have a lot more flexibility with my time. I’ve also developed a lot of really close relationships here in college that I’m very thankful for. 

Daniel Mitchell- Honestly the only thing about my day-to-day that’s really changed is the school I got to and the schedule I run on. Going from seven classes a day to three and two of them alternating from different classes, but don’t get me wrong, it makes the workload feel exactly the same if not more, so in my head, I’d imagine not much has changed, just the place where I’m doing the work.


Any classes that you took during your high school year that impacted your choice of your major?

Rachel Brokenshire- I took both engineering and art classes all throughout high school, and they helped me decide on my major. Taking engineering made me confident that it wasn’t a gift of mine or something I wanted to pursue, and taking art classes made me realize how much I enjoy design. I declared my major as graphic design the month before coming to Iowa State, and I’ve loved it so far. I will say though that it’s so common for people to come in undecided or change their majors, and that’s totally OK and normal. I think the best thing to do in high school is learning about yourself—what you enjoy and what you don’t enjoy are both very valuable. I did job shadows throughout high school, and those were incredibly helpful as well. I never took CAPS, but if I had room in my schedule I totally would have taken it because from what I’ve heard that’s such a great opportunity to pursue an area of interest and evaluate if you want to continue down that path or possibly look at other opportunities. Keep an open mind for sure. 

Daniel Mitchell- I was in broadcast journalism for all of my years being at CF and I enjoyed almost every moment of it. I definitely think it impacts how I imagine my life going. 


What do you miss about High school? Favorite moments?

Sabrina Leistikow- What I miss most about high school are my teachers. I always knew I had great teachers, and I valued the time I got to spend with them, but it wasn’t until college that I realized how much I missed having them in my daily life. They were always there and willing to talk to me before school, while they were eating their lunch or in passing in the halls. In college, I have awesome professors, but nothing will top the teachers I had in high school. They listened to me and supported me more than their contract required, always encouraging me throughout my ups and downs. They taught me more than just textbook material and showed me how to be resilient, care for others and myself and what it means to be a leader outside of school. 

Hunter Peterson- I miss in simple terms the simplicity of it. Don’t get me wrong, high school is very stressful and demanding, but I miss being able to see my friends and just people I knew every day. Everyone lived a different life, but we were able to come together for eight hours a day. The best moments were the state sporting events, spontaneous moments with friends and laughs in the hallways. 

Rachel Brokenshire- Oh my goodness. I miss sports so so much. I was in cross country and track all throughout high school, and I miss the team environment and challenge and competition more than I can say. I also miss going to support my friends in all of their various activities (sports, music, etc.) and having a personal connection to the people who are representing your school. I definitely took that for granted because while it’s still fun to go cheer on your team in college, it’s different not knowing those people or seeing them around the school. 

Overall, I miss the people—friends, teachers, coaches, etc., but I’ve enjoyed making new relationships in college too. Very bittersweet.

Daniel Mitchell- One thing I miss about high school is how easily accessible people are. Everyone’s in one spot at the same time, and it takes little to know how to plan. In college, if your schedules don’t align, then you’ll barely see them if you don’t plan it out. Many of my favorite moments were the most spontaneous with people just being there randomly.


What college do you attend and why?

Sabrina Leistikow- I chose to attend the University of Iowa because of in-state tuition, which is an incredible advantage that I did not realize until I started paying my own bills, and it has a great program for my major: sports and recreation Management. I lived on campus my freshman year because both of my parents enjoyed it when they went to college, so I always knew that I wanted to live in the dorms for at least one year. It was especially beneficial for me to live on campus last year because all of my classes were online, and I felt that it was one of the only ways I could meet people. 

Hunter Peterson- University of Northern Iowa. Off-Campus. I picked it because of my major, business education, which I am not planning on going into anymore.

Rachel Brokenshire- Iowa State, and I’m on campus. I love Iowa State, and I’d recommend it to anyone. Besides the campus being gorgeous, I love all of the opportunities to get involved in the school and community. They have a great design program, which was a big deciding factor for me too. And in-state tuition … underrated.

Daniel Mitchell- I attend Hawkeye Community College. The reason for going to Hawkeye is that it’s one of the only schools in the Midwest area that focuses heavier on my major than other schools do, plus it’s not too far, so I can live off-campus. 


What’s has been the difference between high school and college?

Sabrina Leistikow- One of the main differences between high school and college is time management. You no longer have class from 7:55 a.m. to 2:55 p.m. Your classes are distributed throughout the day, and it is up to you to manage your time well. I took for granted Power Hour and how much structured time throughout high school I had to get work done. Now I have to rely solely on myself to create my schedule and find time to complete assignments/study. Free time throughout the day gives you a lot of freedom and independence to do as you please. However, it also means that you are the only person responsible for how you use your time, which can be a good and bad thing.  

Hunter Peterson- The cultural shift and the time management. I am surrounded by people from all over studying completely different things. I also only have classes three days a week with big gaps in between. 

Daniel Mitchell- The only difference that I see is that you’re on your own. You’re given a lot more freedom, but that freedom doubles down with responsibility and no one will be there to catch when you fall the majority of the time. 


Has your persona changed?

Sabrina Leistikow- When I graduated in 2020, I considered myself to be very independent and I thought that going to college would be easy, especially since the University of Iowa is only an hour and a half drive from Cedar Falls. However, I quickly realized that just because I can do things by myself, doesn’t mean I should. I found that having a strong support system is essential while at college, even if you are a self-sufficient person. I discovered that I had taken for granted time and proximity to my friends and family. My persona has changed to be more appreciative of the time I spend with my loved ones. I’ve learned how important it is to value every minute you get. 

Hunter Peterson- I don’t think it has changed that much. I still do my best to live by the idea of enjoying each day and being a positive person. 

Rachel Brokenshire- I’ve realized I’m a lot more extroverted and spontaneous than I ever thought before college. I honestly think I was always that way. I just never had the opportunity to really see that in myself. I had a very full schedule in high school, so I never realized, when given the freedom, I actually lean toward having a very “go-with-the-flow/let’s go on a spontaneous adventure” kind of personality. 

Daniel Mitchell- I don’t think so. My routine time has pretty much stayed the same as when I was in high school. I just think I’m a little more drained by the end of the day. 


Keep in contact with everyone you know? 

Sabrina Leistikow-  I do keep in pretty good contact with people from high school, and I still consider many of them my best friends. I’ve found that it is sometimes easy to isolate yourself because of differences in schedules and overall busyness. However, if the friendship is important and meaningful to you, reach out! It feels daunting to initiate conversation, but it will almost always be reciprocated. 

Hunter Peterson- Most of the contact is done with social media, but not that much.

Daniel Mitchell- I try to stay in contact with a lot of my past classmates, but being so immersed in school has kinda held me from spending time with them how I want to. 


How is the next chapter of your life influencing your social life?

Hunter Peterson- Well, I have been spending a lot of time working hard to save for my future, which means my social life hasn’t been that exciting. 

Daniel Mitchell- I believe that it’s slowing it down a bit, giving me a chance to focus more on myself, but I believe this to be a good thing more than a bad thing.


Any advice for the seniors this year?

Sabrina Leistikow- If it’s meant to be, it will be. Don’t spend so much time worrying about what could have been or what could potentially be. Trust that what is meant to be will come your way. 

Hunter Peterson- Start planning for your retirement (seriously). Be disciplined and make smart choices, but skip a class, go have fun, stay up late and spend time with friends. Take lots of photos. Don’t worry about the small things. 

Rachel Brokenshire- I would tell anyone in high school, or really any stage of life, to not wish the season away and always count your blessings. Far too often we spend our time reminiscing about the past or just impatiently waiting for the future to come, and we miss out on the present. When the end of my senior year was pretty much taken away because of COVID, the lesson of living in the moment and not taking anything for granted hit me hard. There were a lot of “lasts” for me that I didn’t realize were “lasts” at the moment. If I could go back, knowing what was going to happen, I would have soaked in the moment more. Especially the small things. The bus rides home from late-night track meets. Walking the halls and passing familiar faces. Eating lunch with my high school friends. Updating all of the bulletin boards. Senioritis is real and very normal, but learning to be content and present in whatever stage of life you’re in I think is a great life skill to start developing, and I would encourage seniors to lean into it.

  • Take pictures, but even more importantly live in the moment! Get a disposable camera if your phone is too distracting. Christmas is coming. 🙂
  • Appreciate the pretty sunsets in Cedar Falls—they’re unmatched. 
  • Also, appreciate our Main Street because it’s the cutest.
  • Again, apply for scholarships!
  • Figure out what you love—and don’t love. Both are valuable. Job shadows and classes are a great way to learn this.
  • Take college classes if possible. AP is also OK, but make sure you pass the exam. 🙂 Just do it. If you hear nothing else. Pleassssssse consider. Game changer. Coming into college with lots of credits has been so nice. 
  • But don’t take yourself too seriously. Enjoy not officially being an adult. Your grades don’t define you. Neither does your ACT. Everything will be fine. Work hard, study hard, but ultimately invest in the people in your life. Yourself. Your family. Your friends.

Daniel Mitchell- Get started on your college stuff early. It really makes the rest of the road a lot easier.


What are your plans for the future? 

Sabrina Leistikow-  I plan to graduate in May of 2024 with a B.S. in sports and recreation management and a minor in history. I hope to attend a graduate school in Iowa or a university in the Midwest. Ideally, I want to have a career as a high school athletic director or work for a high school state athletic association, like IGHSAU or IAHSAA. 

Hunter Peterson- I have no idea lol. 

Rachel Brokenshire- I’m not one to spend my time trying and make really detailed plans for my future, Ultimately, I trust God and want to be open to wherever He leads, but currently, the direction I’m heading in is pursuing a graphic design/marketing specialist role in a church, ministry or non-profit—something with a cause I’m passionate about and believe in. I also really want to travel in my 20s, so I don’t know when or where, but exploring the world and learning about various cultures is on the top of my list. 


How are you planning on paying for college? What are some creative ways students can do to help with their college fees?

Sabrina Leistikow- To help pay for college I give plasma and work at one of the recreation centers on campus. I would recommend to anyone going into college to get an on-campus job at the university you attend. Jobs through the university are very flexible with scheduling, provide a lot of support and allow you to make new friends with your coworkers who are students your age. 

Hunter Peterson- My school is paid for through scholarships. I think it is so important to apply for scholarships (talk to counselors) and work a job to pay for things to keep debt down.

Rachel Brokenshire- Scholarships! Scholarships! Scholarships! Apply for them. Lots. Start in high school and continue to do so in college. There are so many resources available if you look carefully enough. 


What are you focused on completing at the moment?

Sabrina Leistikow- Right now I am focused on studying for finals. CFHS definitely helped me prepare for college by providing AP courses. AP classes were incredibly helpful as it truly simulated what the quantity and quality of content would be in college classes and exams. Thus, I felt really well prepared to go into midterms and finals last year and this year. Shoutout to Mrs. Walsh, Mr. Longnecker, Mr. Lang, Mrs. Rogers and Mr. Engdahl. 

Hunter Peterson- This semester lol.

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