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Telling the school's story: Brooks' centennial storybook celebrates 100 years of Rosemount High School

Author Chuck Brooks talks about his recent book that celebrates Rosemount’s 100 years of students. “Though the Rosemount education process had its challenges over the 100 years, the final message of the book is one of survival, perseverance and success,” Brooks said. Kara Hildreth / contributor

A new storybook chronicles and celebrates 100 years of students graduating from Rosemount High School.

Written by retired teacher Chuck Brooks, the book conveys the school's can-do message that he witnessed when the student body and staff were changing as the community Rosemount grew.

"The Little School That Could: Celebrating 100 years of Students in Rosemount!" was published in November 2016. Brooks wrote the story to be shared this year since this is Rosemount High School's 100 year anniversary.

The book's title is a twist written in the spirit of the classic children's storybook about the importance of tenacity in "The Little Engine that Could."

Brooks dedicates the story to the Class of 2017 and the 99 classes of Rosemount High School that preceded. His former student Andre Nelson illustrated this third book they collaborated on. The book follows the last two books, "Twas the Night Before Christmas . . . In Rosemount" and "The Twelve Days BEFORE Christmas. . . In Rosemount."

Giving Nelson creative license to design the first two book covers, Brooks said he knew exactly the image he wanted to depict on this book.

"I wanted the cover to be the middle school, and I sent him a YouTube cartoon from the 1930s or '40s that showed a house on a hill and how over time it comes metropolitan," Brooks said.

"The house had a personality and I wanted to give the house a look of the middle school and readers would smile when they saw the cover."

Nelson illustrated a cartoonish caricature that shows the first school building that opened in 1919 in Rosemount.

The book chronicles how Rosemount schools evolved as the birthplace of Independent District 196.

Brooks began his teaching career for the district in 1982 when Apple Valley was already 70 years in existence. There was a split with Rosemount and Apple Valley when Apple Valley built a new high school.

"Rosemount was king of the hill and they took our star athletes, academic students and the arts students, and that is all I heard about was how everyone was so angry at the split that occurred, but it is nobody's fault because it is progress," Brooks said.

Later on in the 1990s as the area north and west of Rosemount continued to flourish, students again needed to decide whether to move to Eagan High School or stay and graduate from Rosemont High School.

"I remember there were kids who were upset because if you and I are best buds but you have never had as much of a chance to be on stage, and now if you go to Eagan you might be the king of the hill because this is your moment to shine and you did not have the competition you had in Rosemount," Brooks explained.

The appeal of a brand new building was also a draw for many students, Brooks imagined. As a teacher who cared about student learning, Brooks was also concerned about the social dynamic taking place and how it affected friendships when the split in schools took place.

"I saw friendships go by the side because the district said if we don't get enough bodies, we are going to have to do a lottery, but they never had to because they got the turnout," he said.

Brooks said it was hard to witness beloved teachers decide to leave and move.

"Unfortunately, there was a lot of animosity that was built up because of the circumstance and the reality of the split of the student body and teaching staff," he said. "It is a human reaction and it is nobody's fault — it is progress and then we had to start all over again."

Brooks said his story is a testament to the strong will of the Rosemount community, the students and teachers.

"The final message of the book is one of survival, perseverance and success and like any separation or divorce, you have to establish who are to rebuild your identity," he said.

Just like in the Little Engine story, Brooks wants youth to take away how life can be hard with events that seem unfair or unjust, but it is about how resilient a person is to rebound stronger. That is what Rosemount teachers and students have been doing for decades, Brooks said.

"It is just what we did, if we are knocked down, you conquer hills and get back up and find success," Brooks said.

Those hard, sobering lessons can be applied to students' challenges in academics, athletics, the arts and life in general.

Brooks compares Rosemount to Mayberry, the fictional small town featured in the iconic TV show "The Andy Griffith Show."

As the author but also as Rosemount's biggest fan, he encourages locals who love Rosemount to buy all three books as keepsakes. Each book is designed to be told to today's youth and re-told to future generations because all three explain special qualities from the Rosemount community.

"Rosemount is a community that is proud of its community and it owns its community," he said.

Brooks shows his favorite illustration page taken from a large painting Andre painted. The illustration shows a sunset backdrop, a weeping willow tree and a person in need of a friend.

"It is just brilliant because of the symbolism that Andre put in there, and he inspired me to write the last sentence because of what he painted," Brooks said. "My words gave him ideas but his paintings made me write another sentence and that is the beauty of working with Andre because it has been so much fun and we have laughed and we really have respect for one another's talents."