Unapologetic. That’s how one former resident describes the Heemstra community in the film, “It’s All True.”
The film – detailing traditions such as El Gato Negro, the fact that every Heemstra resident has a nickname and the annual outdoor community of Stoopathon – has become a memento as the Heemstra men have transitioned into a new phase of community life.
Produced by senior Kameron “Drifter” Toews and three other former video production students, the documentary details the history and heart of Heemstra Hall in its last months of existence before facing demolition in Spring 2010.
“It was a kind of farewell to the building because living in that dorm has meant so much to so many,” Toews said. “This year they showed it in the two Heemstra wings of Colenbrander to show the guys: this is the community; these are your traditions.”
Toews cites his favorite part of the film as an interview with former resident Jared “Gill” White. “He speaks to how he learned that vulnerability spurs on vulnerability. That’s really what we were trying to get across. That living intentionally with other people and sharing all that you have, while it may seem odd to other people, can be extremely impactful.”
Although the documentary focuses some on specific traditions, it’s this emphasis on the idea of living in community that Heemstra continues to build upon in their new home on third floor Colenbrander.
So what is it like living in the Heemstra community two years later?
“It’s hard because some of the traditions might be considered disruptive by other Colenbrander residents,” said junior Matt “Gadget” Latchaw. “Normal people don’t like some of the things we do.”
“It’s good because there are so many more guys to experience life together with,” Toews said. “But that’s a downside too. There are so many guys to know so you don’t always know them as deeply.”
A recent survey of freshman at the Heemstra table around the five o’clock dinner hour showed an overwhelming consensus: they don’t think they’d be as satisfied with their residence life experience without the community traditions.
“They’re kind of scary at first,” said freshman Mark Van Spronsen. “But once you participate in them, they’re really fun.”
“I don’t know about the traditions yet,” said freshman David “Snakes” Green. “But I love the community.”
The change is felt most by upperclassmen. “The fact that we don’t have our RD makes it a little different,” said Nathan “Dad” Mastbergen. “I think the traditions lose a little bit of depth. But there’s added meaning because they’re completely headed by students.”
Still, the change is promoting a new kind of community. Around fall break of this year, a group of men from Colenbrander set out for the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Originally an all-campus men’s event, Heemstra residents have been the only ones to participate in years previous.
“It wasn’t all Heemstra this year,” said freshman Brook “Ruffio” Stevens. “Mostly Heemstra guys. Some from Coly. And [Colenbrander RD] Ryan Anderson. I thought it was awesome.”
Over the course of 48 hours, they drove to Colorado Springs, took 45 minutes to rest, hiked Pike’s Peak and made it home in time for 7:45 classes on Monday.
“We didn’t take the trail, we just went up the mountain,” Stevens said. “It took us eight hours to get up and probably three hours to get down. It was the ultimate test of the mental will.”
It’s this mixing of traditions that will continue to define the Heemstra community in the years to come.