Class of 2020 Senior Spotlight: Adams Central's Drake Vorderstrasse

Class of 2020 Senior Spotlight: Adams Central's Drake Vorderstrasse

By Tyler Dahlgren

In more ways than one, leadership served as the locomotive that led Adams Central’s Drake Vorderstrasse down the scenic railway to a place called Opportunity.

There were plenty of memorable pit stops along the way, more than one visit to Washington D.C. and several chances to meet peers from the Republic of China, Puerto Rico and across the United States, too. He’s spoken in front of huge crowds and, as the Nebraska FBLA State President, ran a campaign for a national VP bid.

Now a senior quickly approaching graduation, Vorderstrasse is sure glad he climbed on board nearly four years ago. Entering high school, he had always thought himself to be intelligent. Driven and motivated, too. But while students around him were having early conversations of medicine and engineering, teaching and the law, Vorderstrasse was really only ready to explore.

“I thought leadership was the best way for me to really figure out what I wanted to do,” he said. “I tried to get involved in as much as possible. As the years went by, I started to really figure out what I was more apt at, and what I was going to be good at in the future.”

Vorderstrasse wishes there were some tangible way to prove how significantly his time in FBLA has impacted his development as both a student and a human being. He remembers campaigning for State Vice President as a sophomore, the stiff and nervous speech that came with it, and laughs.

“It’s kind of cheesy, but you have to be willing to fail to succeed,” he said. “You can’t expect that the opportunities are going to just come to you. It’s like a ship passing by. If you want to be on it, you can’t just sit on the dock and wait for it to come over. You have to swim out to it.”

Along the way, Vorderstrasse has come to realize that leadership is more than a title or an impressive notch on a resume.

“It’s about the experiences that you’re able to attain through it,” he explained. “Experiences I definitely wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have had it not been for FBLA.”

Vorderstrasse was in Lincoln with last year’s FBLA State President when he received the news that the FBLA State Leadership Conference was being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. From there, dominos started to fall. Pillars holding up what were supposed to be monumental moments for the Class of 2020 over the next two months crumbled. He was with his family when he received the news that his school was closing its doors.

“It was very surreal,” Vorderstrasse said. “You read about things like this, but you never imagine something’s going to happen to your generation that is going to end up in the history books.”

Like so many, Drake has had to settle into a new routine at home, where he admits it’s easier to fall off track and into relaxation. Calculus, digital media and internship applications have kept him busy, warding off any signs of “Senioritis.”

“The timing of this isn’t great, and it’s unfortunate that it’s happening, but it’s what our school and what those extra-curriculars and our parents have been preparing us for,” he said. “When an impediment in the road like this comes up, you have to be able to overcome it and figure out another way to pursue your goals and keep going.”

In the fall, Vorderstrasse plans to attend UNL, where he’ll study some combination of economy, finance and political science. He’d like to get involved in non-profit work and political consultation. His future is as exciting as the path he traveled at Adams Central. The path that got him here.

“Adams Central is a district where you can go and do everything, if you’re willing to put the time in,” he said. “You can do as much as you want. That’s something I took advantage of, especially during my freshman and sophomore years. It’s a place with a supportive environment.”

It’s a place, he continued, where teachers care about their students. Vorderstrasse always knew that, but might not have realized to what degree until the pandemic abruptly altered the remainder of the school year.

What message would he send to the teachers and administrators who have had a hand in guiding his academic journey through the years?

“Just the gratitude I have for everything they’ve done for all of us, and the amount of joy that they take in watching us develop as people, as leaders and as students,” he said. “You don’t realize how important the lives of the students are to the teachers until a situation like this happens.”

Vorderstrasse has leaned on his family and friends, too. He talks to his FBLA state and national officer friends on a daily basis. Together, they designed a t-shirt honoring the “Senior Year that Never Happened.”

“Being able to laugh during this situation is really what’s getting us all through this, I think,” he said.

The community has been supportive, as well. Recently, a long line of cars navigated the streets of Hastings, blasting their horns for the seniors.

“It was a good way for everyone to cheer each other up in a socially distant way,” Vorderstrasse said.

Before the quarantine, Vorderstrasse would hear it around town.

“Hey, you’re the kid who is really involved in FBLA.”

“Hey, you’re the person who helped to organize this project.”

Words of encouragement. Messages of support. Come to think of it, he’s always felt appreciated by the community.

“Even just the smallest recognition means the world,” he said. “You realize that, ‘Wow, something I did actually left a mark on someone else’s life.’”