Miles girls compete at state UIL Writing

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register
Alexa Schwertner (left) and Heather Havlak competed at state in the UIL writing competitions. Schwertner competed in Editorial, while Havlak competed in Copy Editing. Havlak took first place in the category.

Miles High School is excelling in academics as well as in athletics this year. The Bulldogs had 2 seniors competing at the state UIL Writing competition, with senior Heather Havlak bringing home 1st place in Copy Editing. Senior Alexa Schwertner competed in the Editorial competition. This was the 2nd time that both girls had competed at state. It would have been the 3rd time, but as well know, COVID shut everything down in 2020.

As life works it's way back to "normal" after the pandemic, Schwertner said that the competition had changed, "This year it was different. We didn't compete in Austin like before. This year we competed in pods in Abilene. Our submissions were sent to Austin." Previously, Havlak competed in Editorial while Schwertner competed in Feature Writing and News Writing.

The competition was on the heels of district, which Schwertner said is challenging, "It's hard going back-to-back at district. You have to change gears fast."

Havlak said that their prior experience at state didn't offer any advantages, "We didn't really have any advantages because this was my first year doing this category. I had to learn everything like everyone else. They just added this category a couple of years ago." Writing an eye-opener for Schwertner, "I never thought about it, but I found out it was something that I'm good at." She said that you could somewhat size up the competition, "They offer scholarships for those who went to state. You didn't have to win. You could look at the discussion boards and see that some students don't write as well as others." Schwertner is also realistic about the competition, "Sometimes, they're just not going to like your paper."

According to Havlak, the writing competition isn't just something to compete in during high school, "Learning to write is something that helps you out after you graduate. It helps you out your entire life."

The girls said that their advisor, Connie Adams, helped them out throughout their years competing. She's an English Honors teacher at Miles High School.

Girls credit Miles ISD response to COVID.

Both young ladies spoke about how the Miles school district responded during the pandemic. Districts across the nation had to adapt to, and overcome, numerous challenges. Schwertner spoke about Miles' innovation, "The school district handled the whole situation really well. We had online classes, but they made the classes fun. The teachers and staff did a great job." Havlak said that the district responded positively to the challenges, "Miles is flexible. That made the difference, I think. Everyone worked hard and adjusted."

Schwertner's father, Donnie, owner of Top Tier Grain & Feed, spoke highly of the school district staff, "The teachers didn't leave any kid behind. They kept up their pace and when they returned to school, the kids hit the ground running. They have good leadership and they challenge the kids in a positive way, just like with the million dollar scholarship challenge. The teachers help shape our kids' lives and that's why we like our kids to go to Miles ISD."

Danelle Schwertner, owner of The Depot at Top Tier, also spoke about the teachers making the effort to help the students during the pandemic, "The administration and the teachers are really good at what they do. Special education teachers event went out to homes. A lot of grace was involved in everything. The teachers had a different theme each week when we drove to the school to pick up the assignments. One week it was dinosaurs, another week it was superheroes. The lunch ladies handed out lunch each day to the students. Everyone here is helping to grow children who can go out into the world and be self-sufficient."

Donnie commented about the unity of this small, close knit town, "The unity in the town helps the kids. They treat each other as neighbors. If one kid is having financial troubles or other problems, the other kids step in to help out. A couple of years ago, one of my customer's daughters developed cancer. There were 2 high school girls working for me who created a fundraiser, even though the lady didn't live here in MIles." The names of the girls who organized that fundraiser are Hannah Pullin and Taylen Book.

As for Havlak and Schwertner, they'll graduate in a couple of weeks, then head off to college in the fall. Havlak will be attending the Mays School of Business at Texas A&M, while Schwertner will study biology at Angelo State University.