By Olivia Montes
To say that the last four years of me being a student at Washington College were eventful is a severe understatement. In addition to the changes that happened both on and off campus — including, but not limited to, consistent leadership turnover; growing political polarization; calls for racial equality, equity, and justice; and, of course, a pandemic — I was adjusting to this new chapter of my life, trying to find a place where I could not only sharpen my love of writing, but also grow into the person I hoped to be one day.
That was being a writer — and eventually a section editor — for WC’s very own student-led, on-campus newspaper.
While starting off as a writer certainly had its ups and downs — especially for someone who never wrote for a newspaper before my freshman year — through it all, The Elm was always there for me when I needed it most. Despite any early doubts that I had about myself or my abilities to even write a story worthy of being in that week’s issue, I felt that I found a home where I could evolve both as an individual and as a future journalist.
And now, for the first time in what feels like an eternity, I am left speechless. In the span of those four short years, and in a wide range of different spaces — including blank screens, renovated rooms, and ultimately back to the Publication House — it feels as though almost every story has been told. Although, as many of us Elm folks are (painfully) aware of, this is far from the truth — and only just the beginning.
There are still pressing topics yet to be pitched, articles yet to be assigned, and questions yet to be answered; more than 25 issues alone can cover. But, as this publication reminded me time and time again, through unwavering compassion, dedication, teamwork, and optimism, anything is in fact possible, and the best is truly yet to come.
And that, after all that this talented community of writers, editors, and contributors has been through, The Elm is more than ready to take on that challenge for incoming years, teams, and generations.
For Katy Shenk, the first editor whose genuine kindness and guidance gave little freshman me the encouragement I needed to grow as both a newsperson and an overall writer.
For Victoria Gill-Gomez and Gabby Rente, whose leadership in Opinion and Lifestyle respectively always pushed me to be better than my best with each assignment.
For MacKenzie Brady, whose confidence in my abilities to take the wheel at Lifestyle never failed to help me through a year full of unexpected twists and turns and get through the other side a stronger person — and journalist — for it.
For Erica Quinones, both for their never-ending belief in me taking on News for a whole new academic year and championing us editors through thick and thin.
For Cecilia Cress, my editorial partner in crime, whose generosity and experience always inspired me the whole year round.
For fellow mentors of the editorial board — Emma Reilly, Emma Russell, Kaitlin Dunn, Izze Rios, and Jensyn Hartzell — you all crushed it, and I have no doubt you’ll continue to do so wherever life takes you. You all are incredibly amazing, and have made late-night layouts and Thursday night pitch meetings my favorite days of the week.
For Dan Divilio, for all that you have done to help me realize and sharpen my journalistic potential both in and outside the hallowed halls of the Pub House. I will forever be grateful for all your help and support.
And last — but certainly not least — to all the writers whose works I’ve a) loved before; and b) continue to love to this day: Nia Anthony, Anastasia Bekker, Meg Kennedy, Lexi Meola, Grace Apostol, Sophie Foster, and Piper Sartison. It has truly been an honor and a privilege to see your storytelling abilities come to life, and your courageousness to compose honest and eye-opening pieces within a matter of days never ceased to amaze me. I wish nothing but the best for you all, and hope that your stars will continue to burn bright through both the best and darkest of times.
And now, as my time here comes to a close, as hard as it might be, I’ll try to leave this farewell address of sorts on a positive note. For current and future Elmers alike, take advantage of the time you have left here, and use your incredible powers to tell the stories that need to be told. With great power does in fact come with great responsibility, but I know you all will continue to make The Elm both a safe and better space — and publication — for all.
— Olivia Montes
Photo by Jon Kelly
Featured Photo Caption: Outgoing News Co-Editor senior Olivia Montes reflects on her experiences at The Elm since freshman year.