By Erica Quinones
Writing for The Elm started as a vague possibility. I knew Washington College had a student newspaper, but I had never considered journalism as a career and was more interested in pursuing creative writing. I fully expected to tell my own stories and not someone else’s, but that path changed in my very first week on campus.
Sitting with my Orientation Explore group, I casually mentioned being a prospective English student when the ineffable Cassy Sottile took the initiative and invited me to the paper’s first staff meeting.
Awkwardly sitting in the Publication House, I was shy and more than a little frightened — in a good way — of everyone around me. A week later, my contract was signed, my pay pack was in, and, as so many of us joke, my fate was sealed.
Before I could slip into Opinion’s writer pool, Cassy made her second move and swept me into the newsroom where, under her and Lori Wysong’s editorship, I became a full-blown news writer.
Despite my initial doubts, I found myself at home in the section, loving the conversations I was having, getting to know the campus on a deeper level than ever expected, and feeling proud of every piece I turned out.
I still have my first front-page publication pinned on my wall. I was proud just to be asked to write it.
And as I grew as a writer, becoming news co-editor my sophomore and junior years, and moving up to editor-in-chief this year, I carried that pride forward.
I am always amazed by the work we do. Every time a major story breaks mid-week, and we jump to cover it by Monday, I am struck by the dedication and sacrifices The Elm team has and makes.
Every time a student passes the newspaper to their peer, pointing out a story, or reads aloud a passage, I am proud of the conversations that we’ve started.
Every time a source allows us to talk with them, especially about challenging, fearful, or melancholic moments, I am honored to be trusted with their voices and stories.
The Elm showed me just how central journalism is to a community. How it serves as a platform for voices that are often unheard, putting them in conversation with the perspectives that often speak over them. How it helps us learn more about ourselves, our values, and our truths.
None of that growth could occur without the dozens upon dozens of Elm editors and staffers who I’ve met along my way.
Cassy: That first year as news co-editor is how I’ll always remember The Elm. You made my Sundays bright. Blasting My Chemical Romance, shooting into town in Merlin, standing on spinny chairs for impromptu presentations, discovering your vast Sonic-based knowledge, and raging against the dying of the InDesign have ingrained themselves in my mind. And the nights we spent last-minute reporting remain the biggest influence on me as a journalist. Your dedication and never-ending energy showed me what it meant to be a journalist; what it took to tell this College’s stories with grace and kindness; and how vital our reporting is to platforming the voices of our peers.
Victoria Gill-Gomez: You were the best partner I could ask for. The first time I met you, you bandaged my leg after I cut it while doing laundry. That care has been a constant of your character. Besides being a constant friend and model, you wrote one of the most powerful commentaries I’ve read in The Elm or otherwise, showing me what it means to write courageously and openly, especially as a queer person.
Ian Parks: I know you don’t like being pictured in the newspaper, but at least let me shout you out. Robot man, you’re a killer co-pilot and make the early Thursday morning deliveries worth it. Thanks for helping me deliver the gospel news via bundles and bundles of Elms and always being the contrarian voice that makes me laugh.
Liv Montes, Cecilia Cress, Emma Russell, Kaitlin Dunn, Izze Rios, Emma Campbell, Stephanie Fleming, Sophie Foster, and Vee Sharp: I am so proud of you all. No one said bringing The Elm back to print would be easy, but you guys made it look so. Your creativity and strength as leaders show in each issue. And the fact you all not only turned out 26 impeccable issues, but one which was done completely digitally due to illness, speaks to your abilities and willingness to help each other. For those of you who are graduating, I know you’re going to destroy whatever comes next. For those carrying on, I cannot wait to hear what’s next for The Elm.
Dan Divilio: Thank you for being a pillar of support for not just The Elm but me. While I really wish I could take care of everything myself, or better yet, just have problems never happen, they do, and you’re one of the quickest and kindest voices in the room.
Team Lit House: Thank you for being my advocates. No one told me one of the hardest bits of being EIC would be bureaucratic. But no matter the question or challenge, you were there to guide me forward and back me up, and I can’t thank you enough.
MacKenzie Brady: Thank you for passing me the torch. From my first semester, you stood out as a talented writer and leader. Working with you at WCR and The Elm only confirmed that belief. It’s an honor to have been tagged in, and such a pleasure to spot your byline on scattered copies of Kent County News.
Emma Reilly: Your time to shine. I know EIC feels like a tall order, but there’s no one I can think of more qualified to tackle this position than you. Your passion for journalism, thoughtfulness in writing, and versatility in the face of challenge all sing your praises. From the first article you wrote last year, I knew you’d be a star in the Elm sphere, and watching you grow into that ability has been a pleasure. I’ll always be your backer as you lead The Elm into a wonderful future.
And finally, the reader: There is no newspaper without your support. You, the WC community, are who we write for and why we write. Yours are the stories we tell. Thank you for trusting us with those stories. Thank you for taking our insights, thoughts, critiques, and building on them. Change comes from you.
I don’t think any student can say their time at WC has been perfect. My tenure has been particularly tremulous between bias incidents, transparency issues, and — well — a pandemic. But I have seen students, faculty, and staff alike stand up to improve our lives every step of the way.
That’s why I love this imperfect place. Because it refuses to accept that imperfection.
Keep on keeping on, WC.
Photo by Kayla Thorton
Featured Photo Caption: Outgoing Editor-in-Chief of The Elm senior Erica Quinones (above) looks back on their experiences both writing for and leading the publication as a student on the Washington College campus.