Humans of Harker: Always on your team

Leah Anderson’s teamwork and compassion shine through in performing arts and water polo


Rachel Ning

“It’s one of my favorite things, whether it’s in sports or performing arts or dance crew, being part of something, being part of a bigger whole,” Leah Anderson (12) said.

As she smiles warmly with her dark wavy hair falling between her shoulders, Leah Anderson (12) greets everyone she meets with a vivacious, cheerful and exciting personality. Pushing her glasses back up to the bridge of her nose, she begins small talk and makes everyone feel welcome. Her freckled face bursts into loud laughter as she chats with her sister and beckons her boxer dog out into the backyard. As she grabs a hold of her dog’s leash, he matches the same amount of excitement and energy Leah exudes, as he begins jumping around, his tail wagging.

Leah has almost always had a fun personality, and ever since she was a child, she’s always loved to fill her time with various activities and extracurriculars. From different branches of performing arts to sports, she has always put herself out there and is willing to try new things.

Ever since she was young, Leah has been surrounded by singing, dancing and acting. Many of her family members have also enjoyed the arts, so when she expressed an interest in them, no one was surprised.

“My entire family is into performing arts. My dad has sung and my grandmother was in a choir for 40-something years. And so it was like, ‘Oh, you’re doing choir, that’s normal,’” Leah said. “So I started in sixth grade in choir and the musical … and dance. I haven’t done it much in the past few years … but it’s definitely been a big part of my life.”

Recalling some of her fond memories made during performing arts, two productions she participated in during her eighth grade year come to mind.

“My two favorites were probably the eighth grade dance show, because I got picked to do the eighth-grade girls dance, which was really fun on top of my other dance. My other favorite was ‘Guys and Dolls’ because even though I didn’t get a lead, I did get a really big dance number which was really fun, and it was in a fight scene, so we got to learn stage fighting, which was a pretty cool experience,” she said.

Although she cherishes the memory she’s made through different experiences of performing arts, she feels as though if she hadn’t grown up around such an artistic environment, she might have focused more on sports rather than more art-based extracurriculars.

Leah’s career in competitive swimming, which had started at around the age of 8, soon led her to explore other water sports as well, such as water polo.

“I’ve never been good at any sport on land. I’m only a water person, so I think my dad suggested I try [water polo] out,” Leah said.

After trying it out, she realized how much she enjoyed water polo and its focus on teamwork, so she decided to quit competitive swimming and join water polo full time.

“I switched to water polo because I had gotten tired of two and a half hour practices where you’re swimming back and forth and there’s not much human interaction,” Leah said. “Water polo is a chance to be competitive but also be part of a team, which isn’t as big of a thing in swimming.”

Through both performing arts and water polo, Leah really appreciates the team dynamics that are so importantly ingrained into the different activities.

“[Teamwork] is one of my favorite things, whether it’s in sports or performing arts or dance crew, being part of something that does something pretty cool, being part of a bigger whole,” she said.

Not only does Leah enjoy socializing and being able to work with other people, but her vibrant and outgoing personality also makes others feel welcome. Close friend and water polo teammate Anna Arnaudova (12) appreciates how Leah is an extremely dependable and sweet friend. As she recalls a moment where she became distressed, the first person she thought of to call was Leah.

“She’s very bubbly, [and] if you’re going to have one friend it’s going to be her. She’s very loyal,” Anna said. “Three weeks ago I went to Target to pick something up and I was put in a really uncomfortable situation … and it was really distressing and I got in the car and the first person I called was her—I didn’t know who else to call. That’s the kind of person she is,” Anna said.

Close friend Abbie Blenko (12) also describes Leah as optimistic. Having known Leah since sixth grade, they have been able to make irreplaceable memories together.

“Some of my favorite memories were back in sixth grade [at] Mount Cross on the class trip because we were bunkmates and … we definitely got into our fair share of arguments, but I think we were stronger as friends,” Abbie said. “[It was a] crazy time, but it was a fun time,” Abbie said.

A piece of valuable advice that Leah has taught Abbie is the importance of perseverance. Being able to see Leah grow for six years has shown how resilient and determined she is, and if she puts her mind to something, she won’t stop until she succeeds.

“She doesn’t give up on anything she cares about and I think she can always find the good in a situation. She’s always very good at being optimistic and expressing that regarding other people’s situations and giving other people advice,” Abbie said. “She finds unique perspectives in situations that otherwise might seem hopeless and she really helps you see that,” Abbie said.

Adviser and upper school director of journalism Ellen Austin has also loved seeing Leah grow into the defined and sweet person she is now. Through the four years of high school, Austin has felt that Leah has matured and become more wise.

“One of the things I’ve loved about Leah is she’s really supportive and encouraging of fun. [In] our advisory, there’s always a lot of wisecracking … and I look forward to Leah joking around and encouraging and cracking wise,” Austin said. “She’s one of those young people where when you’ve known them from freshman year to now, they have come a very long path and a complex and nuanced path to get to who they are and where they are now.”

While talking about Leah and her growth in entering a new chapter of her life in college, Austin hopes to instill a few last words of advice onto her, as she moves on.

“You have a big, beautiful, boundless soul and you are going to make your mark in the world. Keep shining your light and know that no one can dim it, no one can dim your light and I’m hoping to keep hearing from you all the way along the path ahead,” she said.

Overall, Leah truly enjoys being a part of something bigger than herself.

“It’s one of my favorite things, whether it’s in sports or performing arts or dance crew, being part of something, being part of a bigger whole,” she said.