Leah Potter: With a little help from my friends

Media Credit: Parth Kotak | Staff Photographer

Each year, graduating editors are given 30 final column inches – “30” was historically used to signify the end of a story – to reflect on their time at The Hatchet, published in the final issues of the year.

It’s starting to feel like spring. The cherry blossoms are erupting in delicate shades of pink and white, and bees can be found hovering above flowers or compost piles. It was around this time three years ago that I came to know The Hatchet’s townhouse as my home and the paper’s staff as my family.

Before I officially joined The Hatchet’s staff, I was kind of all over the place. I wasn’t sure what classes I should be taking, I was horrible at managing my time and I felt a bit lost. I wasn’t even sure about studying journalism; I came to GW with biochemistry as my second-choice major, and I thought I would eventually pursue a more science-oriented career. I even thought I’d attempt the pre-med route.

Ultimately, my love of writing compelled me to focus on journalism, and I joined The Hatchet as a reporter my freshman year. A weekly reporting schedule kept me grounded. Tight deadlines meant I had to stay organized. And Friday reporting days in the townhouse became something I looked forward to.

In the spring of my freshman year, I got the call that I was going to be a news editor. I was ecstatic. But my excitement quickly morphed into apprehension as I attempted to take on an intensive reporting schedule and juggle dozens of stories each week. Imposter syndrome set in. Considering my dyslexia and anxiety, I questioned if I could really do this – a job that required impeccable writing and grace under pressure.

I’m sure in part it was my hard work and dedication to this institution that got me through the long hours and looming deadlines. But looking back, what really helped me persevere was the extraordinary group of women working on the same news team. And later, especially when I became managing director, it would be the entire Hatchet staff.

You meet so many people during your time as a college student. Some people you might only encounter once. Others you might only interact with for a semester. But each time I got to know someone new at The Hatchet, I had a feeling that they weren’t going to be just another acquaintance.

Whether it was at 2148 F St. or 609 21st St., The Hatchet’s townhouse is a place where I’ve found love and camaraderie for four years. It’s where I wrote song parodies in between editing drafts. And it’s where I spent more than six hours decorating the basement with a fellow staff member for the holidays.

Of course, it’s also a place where I’ve stayed up until 3 a.m. working on stories and encountered the largest, reddest cockroach I’ve ever seen in my life. But through it all, the townhouse will remain the place where lifelong friendships originated.

Saying goodbye to The Hatchet’s townhouse feels like the end of a long-running sitcom. It’s as though I should be packing up boxes as wistful music plays, and I’m surrounded by everyone who made these past four years so special. Let’s hope this isn’t really goodbye, and that the reunion special is just a little ways down the road.

I love my friends and family more than anything. What truly defined my college experience – and my time on The Hatchet – were the human beings that made even the toughest of times worth while. What is to follow doesn’t even begin to describe how grateful I am to all of these people, but it’s a start.

Parth Kotak | Staff Photographer

Grace – When I first joined the paper, I remember thinking how effortlessly cool you were. You led the culture section with such ease, and you really rocked a denim jacket. I loved getting to know a fellow Seattleite during numerous geography lectures. Thank you for giving me my very first print story, and thank you for letting me write about Lady Gaga!

Avery – I can’t believe that it’s been almost four years since I went to my first reporter meeting for the finance section. You were the best teacher and mentor I could have asked for as a baby reporter. You accompanied me to cover my first campus protest and helped me talk to sources when I was super nervous. You sat with me in the townhouse for hours and told me not to lose hope as I called dozens of experts who wouldn’t answer. Thank you for pushing me to be a better reporter and writer. Also, thank you for always letting me take the sustainability stories.

Cort – Whether I was an anxious freshman reporter or a shell-shocked new editor, you always made me feel like everything was going to be alright. You never show anyone anything but kindness, and that is what I admire most about you. Thank you for always encouraging Meredith and me and making us feel welcome.

Meredith – I was once asked what word best describes you. The word that first came to mind was “energizing.” As an introvert, I find it much easier to relax and recharge when I’m by myself. You are one of the few people who actually energizes me. Even after a long, stressful day, I can’t help but smile when you enter the room or start a sentence with, “so, what had happened was.” I first met you at a news reporter meeting our freshman year. Avery was handing out story assignments, and we both raised our hands to volunteer for the same story. She assigned it to me – you were already working on a story at the time – and I’ll never forget the look of disdain that washed over your face. We left the meeting at the same time, and we both walked to the Vex in front of Funger Hall without speaking. We rode in silence back to the Vern. And, as fate would have it, we both lived in West Hall, so I continued to walk behind you in silence. It was awkward to say the least. It wasn’t until Avery had us over for dinner, and we walked back to Gelman together afterwards that we started to get to know each other. We instantly bonded over liking Brandi Carlile and Joni Mitchell. But I don’t think our friendship really started until we covered the Women’s March together. It was freezing, and as we were careful not to touch the “bias ball,” we started singing songs from Hamilton just to keep warm. Several hours later, we finished up the blog in either my room or yours. From then on, I can’t remember a time when we weren’t in each other’s rooms. I’m such a weirdo, and from day one you always put up with all of my shenanigans. All I can say is, there’s no one else I’d rather make shadow puppets with.

Liz K. – I want to be a bee! I knew that you were going to be in my life for a very long time after we covered the second CCAS ceremony together three years ago. We had barely spoken a word to each other, but you had such a calming presence, and I felt like I already knew you. That day was crazy. A protest broke out in the middle of the ceremony, and I had to leave suddenly to follow it. We met back up at the townhouse, and I inquired about how things were going with the event blog. “It’s already done,” you told me calmly. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even need to ask for help. I feel like that’s how our relationship has been ever since. You always know just what to do, and you always make me feel calm during times of stress. Beep beep, I’m a sheep. Ily, frand!

Elise – Ah yes, Ms. Zaidi! Pray tell, how do you fair this fine day? Should we perhaps dance the quadrille? I can literally hear Parth saying “I hate you guys” right now. I know you don’t remember the actual first time we met, but it was my first official day working in the townhouse during transition. Lillianna told me I should take a break from drafts and go get lunch, and you happily agreed to accompany me. We went to Sweetgreen. I had never been there before and was confused by the ordering process (I know I’m a clown, Parth). You stood right next to me and helped me procure the perfect salad. Whenever I’ve needed help, you’ve been right by my side, assisting me along the way. Thank you for always talking me through something, or simply taking a turn about the room with me. Also, a special shoutout to the Zaidi family for their constant kindness, generosity and support.

Parth – Do you remember that one time that you randomly texted me to ask me how I was at like 2 a.m., like a year ago? It was so unexpected but came at exactly the right moment – I was having a rough night and needed to talk it out with a friend. I know you like to give off the impression that you’re indifferent and hard core, but I’m here to say that you are at least 60 percent soft. You have stolen 25 identical black purses for me only to discover that absolutely none of the bags you grabbed were mine. You’ve sat in the dark with me for hours while I recovered from a concussion. You’ve stayed up late with me so that I could finish studying for my philosophy exams. You also helped me open my mailbox, like 100 times. You’re always there for me when I need you, frand, and for that I am eternally grateful. Here’s to many more nights of making pancakes and watching “Parks and Recreation.” Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool, no doubt, no doubt, no doubt.

Justine – Side hoe! Every day when we check in with each other, I can’t help but think how lucky I am to know you. You’re someone who I instantly clicked with (so much so that I would literally start crying when you left the townhouse). I have to believe that the universe would have eventually brought us together, but I’m so glad The Hatchet introduced us when it did. Whether it’s obsessing over the Titanic or laughing at really obscure references to “The Office,” I always have fun with you. You give the best advice and the best pep talks. You are also the best listener and so incredibly thoughtful. No matter where I am in life, you will always be my side hoe – a love truer than anyone can understand.

Andrew – I remember one time before budgeting on Wednesday, Meredith and I were working in the business office. For whatever reason we were attempting to sing all three parts of “A Heart Full of Love” from Les Misérables. You stood in the doorway for a few seconds looking totally perplexed and then finally said, “are you guys coming to budgeting, or…?” You were always so patient with me – whether it was sitting beside me for 20 minutes while I tried to figure out the lede for my story or tolerating my horrible singing in the townhouse. You are such a talented writer, and I learned so much from you my first year on staff. Thank you for your mentorship and compassion. Also, thank you for listening to me pitch composting stories over and over again.

Lillianna – I was both honored and terrified to be taking over the beats of the incoming editor in chief for Volume 114. I remember thinking, ‘I’m just a kid! You can’t trust me with this huge responsibility!’ But from day one, you made it known that you believed in me. I’ll never forget when you stayed with me in the townhouse until 3 a.m. transcribing interviews. I’m sure you were extremely busy with transition and had a million other things you could have been working on. Thank you for answering my hundreds of questions and for coaching me as I embarked on my new role.

Sarah R. – One fateful October afternoon, I had a reporter bail on covering a protest. I sat in the basement, anxiously chatting with Justine as I worried that the blog would die. You sat with us quietly. After overhearing my predicament, you courageously volunteered to cover the protest. You handled your surprise task with professionalism and care. From that point on, I can’t remember a time when you weren’t in the townhouse. I know how intimidating it can be to hang out with editors when you’re not on staff, but you jumped right in, and we instantly thought of you as a friend and a part of our team. Less than two months after you took a blog for me, we were decorating the basement with paper snowflakes, cotton ball snow and wrapping paper. Looking back, this is still one of my favorite Hatchet moments. It’s not just because I love preparing for the holiday season, it’s because I had so much fun with you. We talked about everything from our love of The Sound of Music to our philosophies on life. Thank you for being an incredible reporter, colleague, editor in chief and most importantly, friend.

Cayla – The Hatchet townhouse isn’t the same without your signature dances and catch phrases. Thank you for insisting on late night dance breaks and helping me transcribe interviews at 2 a.m. after a long day of reporting. It’s sad not having the news team 2017 gang together, but I know you are off doing incredible things.

Dani – Every time we worked on a story together last volume, I was so impressed by your determination and concentration – it’s because of these traits that I knew you were going to be a wonderful SNE. Thank you for always bringing your sense of humor to the townhouse.

Jared – My Hatchet son! I knew you were going to be a Hatchet star from the start. We first met when you came to the townhouse one day to inquire about your pending application. For whatever reason, your application had become lost in the shuffle. After you left the townhouse, Lillianna came into the newsroom and asked who wanted to take on a new reporter. I instantly volunteered. From that day forward, you were in the townhouse every Friday and volunteering for every story. I knew I wanted you on staff from the beginning. I am so proud of the editor you have become, and I know you are going to be an incredible SNE.

Shannon – I literally started crying after Parth and I FaceTimed you to tell you that you were going to take over the health and science section. I was so excited to have you take over as editor! It has been an absolute pleasure watching you grow into this role and make it your own as you lead your section with grace and kindness. Also, you are such a beautiful dancer and an amazing choreographer! Being in Balance with you has brought so much joy to my heart.

Ilena – I remember Parth telling me that we had another blog prodigy on our hands. From day one, you have impressed me non-stop. Every time I see you on campus or around the townhouse, I can’t help but smile. Thank you for your kindness and your dedication to The Hatchet.

Lizzie – From sitting in class to reporting on Fridays in the townhouse, I always enjoy spending time with you. I am truly in awe of your drive and passion – you will knock on doors for hours to get interviews and be in the townhouse all day simply to help anyone in need of assistance. You are an incredible reporter, and I am honestly so excited to see the amazing work you do in the years to come.

Lia, Zach, Makena – You all have taken on one of the hardest roles on staff, and you have done so with poise and professionalism. I am never not impressed by the work you do. Thank you for reporting on tough issues and holding people in power accountable. Keep at it!

Nia – Hearing your voice or seeing your smile never fails to brighten my day. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your positive energy and constant enthusiasm. On top of being an amazing friend, you are a truly talented reporter and writer. I will miss seeing you around campus so much – I guess that just means I’ll have to visit a lot! After all, it’s not bye, it’s see you later!

Kiran – I remember one of our first conversations when you tried to convince me to be on ed board. I had been on team news for three years, and I wasn’t easily persuaded. How could I possibly be on ed board if I had never been allowed to have an opinion? Eventually I accepted the position, and I’m so glad that I did. Thank you for putting up with me always pitching Title IX staff eds and attempting to slip Title IX into every ed board conversation. Also, thank you for agreeing that Domino’s is good!

Hannah – You impress me every Tuesday night when we sit down for ed board. No matter what the topic is, you approach each conversation with thorough research and compelling ideas. I also admire how you are not only able to see an issue from both sides, but argue both of those sides with conviction. I know you’re going to do a superb job leading the opinions section and ed board next year.

Emily – You are a star! Every week you have dozens of by-lines and attend numerous games. You are incredibly hardworking and always have the best attitude. It has been an absolute pleasure being on ed board with you. I’m glad ed board will continue to have your wisdom and insight next volume.

Sidney – The culture section has absolutely flourished this year, and that’s because of how you have led your section. Every week, your content is fresh and creative. It has been so much fun being on ed board with you this year. I’ll miss seeing you every Tuesday!

Natalie – I’m so glad I found someone else to gush about creative writing with on staff! I have loved being on ed board with you this volume, and I will greatly miss our chats when we walked home every Tuesday evening.

Liv – You are a design queen! Thank you for making the paper look beautiful every week. I’m going to miss sitting next to you at ed board each week and exchanging glances every time Kiran said something questionable.

Lillian – You are one of the most hardworking people I know. I am constantly impressed by everything you do, and I know you’re going to make a great senior photo editor.

Heidi & Dante – You both have such a calming presence around the townhouse. You are brilliant videographers and I look forward to watching your creations each week. The video section is lucky to have you both.

Ed – Thank you for always coming to reporter meetings and for staying late in the townhouse on Fridays to finish drafts. I’ve missed being your editor this year, but I’m so glad you got on staff!

Tiffany – My Hatchet grandchild! Not only are you a stellar designer, you are also an awesome reporter. You brighten every room that you are in, and your positive energy is much appreciated in the townhouse. I know you are going to do a spectacular job as a news editor next volume.

Olivia D. – I love how our conversations are either super serious or humorous. I hope you know how much I’ve appreciated your friendship these past few years. It has felt strange not seeing you in class or in The Hatchet’s basement, but I know our friendship will continue as we attempt this so-called post-grad life.

Kelly – Not only are you the sweetest human being, you are an absolutely brilliant journalist. I miss seeing you around the townhouse every week, but I’m so excited to watch your career unfold as I know you are destined for incredible things.

Tyler – I’m so glad I still got to see you around campus and in the townhouse even after you graduated. I’ve truly missed your dry sense of humor and witty remarks on prodo days. Thank you for always answering my dumb questions, helping me count ballots after the EIC election and for believing in the podcast from the start.

Arianna – Some of my favorite memories of being in the townhouse include you attempting to do various activities wearing baby hands and me laughing hysterically. From producing stunning videos to meticulously editing the podcast, I am amazed and inspired by everything you do. Thank you for your patience every time I messed up a sentence during a podcast recording. Thank you for your dedication every time you took a story for me. And thank you for letting me sometimes be The Hatchet’s resident on-camera chef.

Liz P. – You gave me my first bee story! I thoroughly enjoyed being both your culture reporter and news editor. Thank you for always bringing your fun energy into the townhouse.

Margot – Whenever I would migrate down to the basement because I couldn’t handle the stress of the newsroom, I would hope that you would also be there. Even in my most anxious moments, I would instantly feel at ease when we would start talking about food and music. I miss our chats about Lady Gaga!

Barbara – You truly are a ray of sunshine. It’s crazy to think that three years ago, we were baby finance reporters. I was so happy to have a friend on staff when we both became editors, and I can’t imagine my Hatchet experience without you. I’m so glad I was able to see you around SMPA this year! Also, we still need to record our podcast!

Matt C. – You are one of the most dedicated Hatcheteers I have ever worked with. Thank you for helping out with literally every section of the paper. I also want the record to show that you did not vanquish the Roach Man. The roach you killed was not nearly red enough nor large enough. He may still be out there…

Yonah – It would always start with you entering the newsroom with a smile. “Graphics?” I would ask. You would slowly nod your head, and it would begin. We’d start by discussing something like what color each line of a graph should be. But then, the conversation would, without fail, turn to an important current event or a philosophical argument. Even when we weren’t working on a graphic together, anytime an important issue was brought up for discussion in the newsroom, I would always look over to you first. Thank you for the shared glances and deep conversations.

Zach S. – It definitely feels like there’s a Blank Space now that you’ve left The Hatchet. I Know Places and people that will carry on your legacy as a brilliant design editor. I Wish You Would visit soon, but I know in the meantime you are off making the world a better place. Also, Look What You Made Me Do – writing Taylor Swift lyrics into this paragraph was almost Treacherous, but So It Goes.

Emma – You are not just a good egg, you are the best egg there ever was. I will always treasure our podcast recording sessions in the basement. Thank you for always assuring me that everything was going to be OK, and that I just needed to be myself.

Sam H. – I miss hearing your boisterous and cheerful voice around the townhouse. Thank you for your constant enthusiasm and willingness to always help out team news, even if we needed a last minute photo!

My reporters – You were one of the best parts of my job. I loved our weekly Kahoot competitions and reporting days in the townhouse. Thank you for making my job possible and for showing up time and again when I needed you. I feel so lucky to have worked with such a talented group of writers, and I can’t wait to see what you accomplish next.

To all past, present and future Hatcheteers – The Hatchet is nothing without the people who contribute to its pages! You make this paper what it is. Even though I didn’t include everyone in this piece, just know that I think the world of you. It has truly been an honor to work with some of the most talented journalists and writers around. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, you are still able to carry on and put out a great paper. To present and future staff, I’ll leave you with this. Learn from your mistakes. Lead with kindness and compassion. Be patient with yourselves and others. Don’t be too hard on yourself. And don’t forget to have fun!

Parth Kotak | Staff Photographer

Laurana – I’m so glad you decided to move into West Hall midway through freshman year. I remember the day before I left for winter break, you were watching “How I Met Your Mother” in our living room. We didn’t know each other super well at this point, but I asked if I could watch the show with you. You, of course, said yes, and two minutes later I was dragging my giant suitcase into the room along with half of the contents of my closet. “Whatcha got there?” you asked, slightly amused. “My flight leaves in eight hours and I haven’t packed, but I really want to watch this!” I exclaimed. As I’ve told you before, I felt a little lost my freshman year. When I met you, I felt like I was returning to myself. You reminded me that it’s OK to be dorky and to sing-narrate my life. I love that sometimes when we end up laughing at something together, our laugh attacks can go on for several minutes and usually result in both of us crying hysterically. I love that we can spend hours talking about anything from Harry Potter fan theories to recipes involving lots of cheese. Always.

Callie – I will always cherish our nights of watching “Gilmore Girls” and making vegan snacks. I love our intense conversations about film and literature, and I hope they continue for many years to come. Thank you for always listening to me vent and for letting me leave at least one light on at night when we were roommates. Alaina and Olivia: I’m so glad y’all included me in the Schiffman squad. I love you both!

Esperanza – My love! I can’t even begin to say how happy I am that you asked me to choreograph a dance with you last year. Not only was our dance a beautiful masterpiece, it was the start of a lifelong friendship. I will forever be grateful for your kindness, sensitivity, compassion, humor, strength and encouragement. I hope there are many more morning walks around the monuments accompanied by snack-size pancakes in store for us. I can’t imagine my life without you. And it all started with two chairs.

Joey – One of my favorite memories from sophomore year is when we went into Georgetown in search of a pair of shoes. Our footwear quest was accompanied by me getting a spontaneous piercing and plenty of window shopping. Later, we spent hours painting your shoes. I think you even let me put on Lady Gaga while we decorated. I miss our arguments about fashion and music in the affinity, and engaging in long rants about GW and pop culture. I hope that we can be neighbors again in the future. Until then, keep on changing the world for the better.

Matt W. – I can’t help but think of you every time I make mac and cheese. Maybe it’s because I always used to give you my leftover noodles when I was too full to eat them. Or maybe it’s because of that time you made us mac and cheese (with peas!) for dinner and you let me keep all of the leftovers. I think I was literally speechless when you handed me the giant container of cheesy pasta. And now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I was making mac and cheese the first time we met in the kitchen. You put up with so many of my antics, like when I told you I had a “sickness,” and that sickness meant I could only listen to Elton John or I would not be able to function. Or like when I confessed I had started listening to Christmas music in June. Or literally any other weird thing I did. You are one of the most generous and caring people I know. Thank you for always being there for me. P.S. Cedric says hello.

Robert – It has felt weird this past year not seeing you in the SMPA building and immediately dancing. Even if I were completely exhausted from a long day of work and classes, your positive energy would always revive me. Balance shows and SMPA classes just aren’t the same without you! Keep killing it in SF!

Meg – Thank you for the long FaceTime sessions and much needed movie nights. You always patiently listen to me whenever I complain about work, and I instantly feel better after talking through things with you. From dancing in the studio, to dancing in our pajamas after a long “Glee” marathon, you’ve always been by my side. Even though we’re almost 3,000 miles apart, I still feel like we’re in this together. Love you!

Claire – Hey, you. I experienced one of my greatest moments of bliss while I was with you. We made mac and cheese pizza and watched a period piece drama. You, a romantic drama and mac and cheese pizza – that’s really all I need. You’re the Jim to my Pam and the Ann to my Leslie. One of these days we’re going to be living in the same city, and our Pinterest boards will become a reality. Love you, boo.

Ana – I love that whenever we see each other we pick up right where we left off – it never feels like any time has passed. You have seen me at my best and my worst, and everything in between. Whether it’s editing our papers late at night or lamenting about everything and anything, you’re there for me no matter what. Thank you for always helping me find my inner strength and moxie.

Jonathan – Whether my life is going horribly wrong or incredibly right, you’re always the first person I want to call. Sometimes I just need advice on lyrics to my next song parody, and other times I need to be consoled after having a minor existential crisis. Thank you for always picking up the phone when I’m in need of a chat.

Graham – I’m not sure if you know this, but you were one of the reasons I got into journalism. I remember watching you work on the Spartan Standard’s staff in high school and being so impressed by your writing. In middle school, I wanted to be just like you. I signed up to be a staff writer as soon as I could, and I fell in love with reporting. You were my first friend and are my fiercest protector. Thank you for always having my back.

Auntie Gaga – Whether it’s a big accomplishment or a small triumph, you are always there cheering me on. You’ve known me since I was small and completely obsessed with cats and the color pink. And now… well, I’m still obsessed with both of those things. Thank you for always giving me the best book recommendations (along with the books themselves!) and for supporting me in every endeavor.

Mom & Dad – I have a unique talent because I was raised by the two of you – I can carry an entire conversation solely using movie lines. Thank you for being the most caring and extraordinary support system for the past 22 years. And thank you for raising me to be weird and theatrical, it’s served me well. Dad: Whenever I have an obscure question about music or I need help with basic life things, you’re the first person I turn to. You’re my rock, and I know I can always count on you. Thank you for being my career coach, fellow film score enthusiast and oat milk consultant. Mom: If I’m in the mood for some discount shopping or watching a Nancy Meyers film, you’re my gal. Thank you for being my confidant and for always listening to me vent, whether it’s about a big problem or a minor grievance. You were my first writing coach, and I couldn’t have made it to where I am today without you.


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