The Transylvania Times -

Dunn's Rock News


October 10, 2019

Bringing History Alive

What started as a class project for Leslie Borhaug's students in 2005, revived an important piece of county history and inspired an award-winning documentary.

The students, who were tasked with researching, writing, illustrating and publishing a children's book on a topic derived from county history, chose the story of the 1963 Brevard High School football team, one of the first integrated teams in the state. That moving story, which had been largely forgotten, was recounted in their book, "Brevard...Standing Alone: North Carolina's First Integrated Football Team, The Untold Story."

That book, in turn, inspired Tom Dierolf's award-winning documentary, "Almost Cured," which will be shown at the Oct. 17 Dunn's Rock Community Center Dinner and Program. The documentary features interviews with team players, Dr. Keith Elliott, Lloyd Fisher and Paul Scruggs Gardin, as well as Coach Cliff Brookshire and his wife, Nancy.

Borhaug and Jack Powers, a Transylvania County Historical Society volunteer who assisted the students with their research, also will be present to comment on the film. A dinner of pinto beans, corn pudding, sautéed cabbage and cornbread will begin at 6 p.m., followed by the 7 p.m. presentation.

Borhaug, who in the early 2000s was a middle school teacher at Davidson River School, was looking for a way to engage her students in their own learning. She decided the best way to do this was to have them teach. Borhaug assigned her students the task of reading children's books to kindergarteners at neighboring Pisgah Forest Elementary. In addition to reading aloud, they were required to prepare questions to ask the students.

This year-long commitment to working with kindergarteners made her students "care about what they were reading and who they were reading to," she said. It also gave them first-hand knowledge for their next assignment, publishing a children's book on an aspect of local history. The culminating activity for the students was reading their book to the kindergarteners with whom they had been working.

The students were assisted by volunteers from the Transylvania County Historical Society, who gave tours of historic Brevard locations, as well as helping them access archives, which at the time were housed at Silvermont Mansion. Suddenly history, was interesting to the students.

"These projects were always about the students' academic and emotional growth. The process was important, not the product," Borhaug said.

Two books were published by Borhaug's students prior to "Brevard... Standing Alone." In 2003, "Behind Closed Doors of the Allison-Deaver House," was completed, followed by "Lake Toxaway – Back in the Day" in 2004. All three books, which are available at the Transylvania County Library, won awards from the North Carolina Society of Historians.

The project also had another significant outcome. Students tested before and after the project showed an average increase of 2-3 grade levels in their reading ability.

As part of their research on the 1963 Brevard High School football team, the students invited Coach Brookshire, his wife, Nancy, and team members to the school for a day of interviews. Students were able to hear first-hand stories from the players and see the scrapbook of clippings that Nancy had kept about the team's turbulent and winning season.

In their book, the students were able to tell about the team's triumphs of being state co-champions and having a run of 13 consecutive games, where the opposing team was prevented from scoring, as well as the harsh experiences they faced at home and on the road. In the face of these racial tensions, even among team members, Coach Brookshire led the team with strong, unwavering support and guidance.

The story "gave students a sense of pride, knowing that they come from a community where things like this happen," Borhaug said.

These books on county history are not the only ones with which Borhaug has been involved. She also wrote an award-winning historical fiction book with her father, Keith Parker, called "Sons of Mercy and Justice: A Transylvania Story." The two are working on a second historical novel based on county history.

After 16 years of teaching, Borhaug has continued her focus on helping struggling readers through her work as a full-time writer. She has found joy in writing "hi-lo" books, which deliver high interest at a low reading level.

Borhaug discovered the need for this sort of literature when one of her daughters, who struggled with reading in the first grade, was unable to find books that met her high interest level with an accessible vocabulary. This dearth of books led to Borhaug's composition of stories for her daughter.

After working with the Davidson River Students, Borhaug saw the same need in the middle and high school age group. A born storyteller, Borhaug received a contract with Saddleback Educational Publishing to write three novels of urban fiction for high school or upper middle school under the penname L.B. Tillet. She used some of the tough situations she saw her students dealing with as inspiration for her stories. Her book, "Unchained," won a silver medal from the Independent Publisher Book Awards. Each of Borhaug's hi-lo books includes a dedication to her former students.

"My greatest gratitude goes to my students whose true stories remain more unbelievable than fiction. They are my heroes."

Community Center News

A Community Playgroup meets on Tuesdays at 11 a.m. Children from birth to age 5 are invited to attend with their caregivers for a morning of snacks, fellowship and play.

On Thursday, Nov. 7, at 6 p.m. a presentation will be given on behalf of the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners on an option being considered for funding Fire Service Districts. It will be presented by the assistant county manager and staff from Emergency Services.

To rent the community center, contact Janet Robertson at 883-2678. Share your Dunn's Rock news at


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