The boom behind ten Boom
The centuries-old church erupted in applause as 43 women rose to their feet. The House of Corrie ten Boom won the 2015 Interregnum and House Cups, both for the first time in the House’s comparatively short history. Although ten Boom enjoyed the excitement of victory, according to the House President, Rosalind Mirabito, they don't find competition to be fulfilling. “To us that trophy is nothing more than a fun bonus," Mirabito said. "When I look at the community that we’ve been able to develop with one another this year, that’s more of a success to me than anything else."
Why does ten Boom consider winning to be irrelevant to its success? In speaking to ten Boom’s members – freshmen, upperclassmen and alumni alike – there is a consistency in how they speak about their House as community of individuals.
“Individuals make up the culture of the House, not the entity of the House itself,” says Laura Bradshaw ('15), former ten Boom President. “We talk about the House as an entity but the truth is that the House is individuals.”
As a result, the members consider this year’s competitive success not to be a completion of their House’s goal or even a result of a tight-knit community, but rather a side-effect.
“Whether we were in last place last year or in first place this year, it was a striving for excellence," said ten Boom's President-elect, Jessie Schnoebelen (’16). "We weren’t striving for first place."
According to Andrea Mellinger ('12), a founding member of ten Boom, from the House's beginning in 2010, “it was all about how you were loved, accepted, [as] a member of the House." Mellinger explained that those who formed ten Boom modeled it after the best parts of the Houses to which they previously belonged.
The first year the House was formed they lost a lot of members, Mellinger said. However, it was pretty clear from the beginning that community would always be important to ten Boom. “Our goal was that we would all be thriving and that everyone would have a place here," Mellinger said in a phone interview. "We're not about competitions, standing out, being different.”
House competitions are an integral part of the King’s culture. For many students they are the most thrilling, or disappointing, moments of an academic year. For each competition, Student Life informs House exec teams of its philosophical purpose. For example, the purpose of the basketball competition is to build camaraderie. Ten Boom measures their success in competitions according to whether they achieve its designated purpose.
“If there’s ever a point where that purpose is not being accomplished then we don’t want to do it. I think that’s what is radical about ten Boom, is how we see competitions only as good if they’re accomplishing the mission,” said Mirabito. She explained that ten Boom didn't compete in the performing art competition one year because it was hurting their community. "The only way to healthily break past the tension was to set the competition aside and focus on each other instead," Mirabito said.
Referencing her time as House President, Bradshaw explained that although they were working hard they were placing eighth or ninth in most competitions. "That effects morale, as much as I wish it didn’t," she said. "I saw one of my challenges as maintaining that focus of ‘who we are.’”
Poor competitive results caused Bradshaw to realize that, “you can always be celebrating something that an individual is doing in your House and recognizing them for their particular skills or strengths.”
A cynic may say it is easy for the upperclassmen to claim that competitions matter little to them due to this year’s successes. Yet, according to the founding members, this has always been ten Boom's approach to competitions. As Mellinger said, “competitions aren’t the point of our community.”
This year's freshmen have similar sentiments. “I was a freshmen, I came in; we won. I never saw ‘tenth Boom,’ but all the people before us did see that," said Megan Starnes (’18), the Chamberlain-elect. "They saw us come in last place every event and at the end of the year we’d have nothing really to celebrate as far as House Cup goes, but that’s never bothered them before.”
Ten Boom's tight-knit community reflects their House mission and values. In the first few days after their freshmen arrived, the executive team sat down with the House to analyze who they were.
"The upperclassmen would call out each of us freshmen one-by-one, saying ‘what does this mean to you?" Madison Clark (’18) said. "What do valor, peace and joy mean to you?’”
The House values – valor, peace and joy – are connected to a part of Corrie ten Boom’s life, the House namesake. The House seeks to live with the same qualities as the woman who inspires them.
“When we speak of Corrie ten Boom it’s from a perspective of ‘I can never completely understand what she went through,'” said Mirabito. She explained that with people like Ronald Reagan it's evident that he did amazing things but his faith and reliance on God are unclear at times. "With Corrie it’s so clear, you cannot read her story and miss her pointing you to God," Mirabito said.
Each year provides unknown obstacles to a House as seniors graduate and new freshmen are welcomed. The members of ten Boom feel confident in the sisterhood they have established and they understand that true community is organic.
“We can’t contort or control it into what we want it to be. All we can do is provide an atmosphere in which those individuals can flourish and grow,” said Bradshaw.
Ten Boom’s approach is one of ownership, if each member knows what the community believes in then they will know why they want to be a part of it. “We’ve achieved such a close sense of sisterhood," said Starnes. "That will be my goal, to achieve that with the freshmen class. That would be success for us.”