Writing Contest

More than 220 middle school students in Pflugerville ISD submitted creative stories, poems or essays for the recent SouthWest Water Company writing contest.


Thank you to all the students who entered and to the teachers who scored the contest.



Windermere Utility congratulates the contest finalists:

  • Amy Cao, Park Crest Middle School
  • Gabriella O’Donnell, Kelly Lane Middle School
  • Hanna Vo, Westview Middle School
  • Galen Drake, Dessau Middle School
  • Nicholas Myrick, Pflugerville Middle School


And the grand-prize winner:

  • Patricia Cabreros, Cele Middle School


Grand-Prize Winning Essay


TAP OUT, By: Patricia Cabreros


It was the month of April 2014, when the government decided to move the tap water pipes to a much cheaper river named Flint because it was much cheaper. People didn’t give a second thought to it, so long as it provided them something to drink. They had more important things to deal with than worrying about where the water’s being sourced. Let alone a fourteen-year-old who’s top priority was to make sure she didn’t post anything embarrassing.

Sheryl Dawson was in her room with her best friend, Claire Davis, both giggling quietly while talking and scrolling through their phones. Sheryl would cough loudly in her arm every once in a while, but they didn’t think much about it, excusing it for a mild case of the sniffles. Sheryl pressed the power button on her phone, “Just remembered… do you have that science homework-?” “Uh… Look through my desk. I was working on it earlier before you came over.” Sheryl slid off of the bed and proceeded to sift through the papers strewn across the wooden desk. At one point, Claire made a slight gagging noise, jabbing the pad of her thumb onto her screen before facing the phone towards the other in disgust. Sheryl stopped what she was doing and peered at the glowing surface, gaping at it for a second before her face scrunched up and she let out an abrupt, “Ew..”.

The phone showed a bottle full of clean water on the left side, and another one on the right, full of dirty, muddy water. The caption below the brown water stated, “Flint, Michigan water.”, whilst the other, “Clean, filtered water.”.

“That stuff looks dirtier than the toilet water after gramma makes tacos. That is not the stuff I drink.” Sheryl stated sharply, her brows knitted together as she brushed Claire’s phone away, going back to typing at her phone. “But it says here that this stuff’s poisonous, Sher!” Claire fretted, concern knitting her brows together as she tapped a link for a blog on the subject.

Sheryl, rubbing the middle of her chest for a moment, trying to soothe a strange, stabbing pain in that area before returning her focus to Claire. “Claire, can you see this?” She asked, striding over to the bedside and grabbing at her half-empty cup of water on her bedside table. The water was pretty clear, save for the slightest tinge of orange, but Sheryl excused the weird coloring to the lighting. She downed the rest of the liquid in one gulp, giving an exaggerated, satisfied sigh afterward.

“From the tap. Did that water look that poisonous?” She tested. Claire groaned and clutched her plastic bottle of water. “Just… Don’t drink tap the tap water..” Claire requested, the other sticking out her tongue but grasping the plastic bottle of water anyways. “Y’know my parents can’t afford to buy bulk packages of water like your parents do.” She mumbled, going back to looking throughout the drawer of Claire’s desk.

They left it at that for a while, avoiding the subject and talking about other things, what high school life would be like, how the theatre’s musical was coming up, Sheryl’s dog being sick. “What?! What do you mean that they might put him down?!” Claire gasped, practically falling off of her bed in shock. Sheryl wheezed slightly at her reaction, but a certain sadness creased her features as leaned back on the desk’s chair to make sure the other was okay. “Yeah.. but you know h-how old-” She started to say before a hacking fit overwhelmed her. She coughed into her elbow, and Claire furrowed her brows as she looked up from where she was laying. “S-sorry where was… What was I saying..?” Sheryl mumbled, pressing a hand against her forehead. It felt burning hot, and when she looked at her inner elbow, she saw splotches of blood where she had coughed. Now, one thing about Sheryl is that she did not do well with blood, especially her own. She heard Claire’s voice ask something illegible to her, then everything went black.

It’d been three weeks after that incident, three weeks since she’d been diagnosed with Legionnaires disease. At this point, she’d already replayed her life a thousand times as she lay on the stiff hospital bed, wondering how else could it have gone differently with a singular choice. But she realized; She shouldn’t have to worry day to day about whether her life is on the line with the water she drinks. This was all the governments doing. But it was way too late to point fingers now.

Red, hot, searing pain tore at her chest. She soon realized that it wasn’t just her sickness causing it, it was anger. She was absolutely furious. Furious that because of the governor, she might not have her whole life to live. Furious that through all this suffering, there were still people out there, consuming the toxic tap water because they can’t afford clean, filtered water.

Sheryl stared at the water sitting at the table beside her, almost completely covered by “Get Well cards” and a variety of flowers. She didn’t feel like drinking, but the fact that the water in the hospital was completely filtered infuriated her. Her hand reached to and grasped it tightly as if asking, “where were you when I needed you?” silently.

She was staring at the glass for a few moments in near silence, the only sound was the constant beeping of her monitor and the whirring of the machine next to her, supporting her every valuable breath. She downed the cup in one gulp, then lay down and shut her eyes to a dreamless sleep.

Dying didn’t seem real. It was unannounced, simply just a transition. One moment she was asleep and wheezing lightly, the next she was floating behind her sobbing mom in the morgue, staring at her own dead body. She hovered along the halls of the sick patients, spotting a nurse bringing a tray full of glasses to each and every room. She decided to accompany her, hearing every timid “Thank you” as she went on her way.

Sheryl was beginning to grow bored when she heard someone sob from the next room. She abandoned the nurse, slipping her way through the walls to the sound of wails coming from afar.

“B-but she… she can’t be sick! I swear on my life- I have never let her drink from the tap before!” Claire’s mom sniffled, looking up at the doctor

with eyes that flamed with anger. “Test her again! I demand to know if this is a mistake!” Her daughter sat in a chair beside her, hooked up to an air tank. She seemed to stay in a state of shock, staring into the distance with scared, wet eyes.

Sheryl felt her heart sink instantly, floating by her friend’s side and trying to squeeze her tight, a few transparent tears streaking her cheeks as her arms went through Claire’s shoulders.

“Ma’am… we checked her thrice. She’s positive for Legionnaires. There’s no possible way she hasn’t consumed at least a little bit of water from the city.” The doctor said solemnly, sadness etching his features. Mrs. Davis gathered Claire in her arms, finally accepting the reality and reassuring her child it would be okay.

“Sheryl died from… From this thing. What if I..?” Claire finally managed to choke out, meeting the doctor’s gaze. He just shook his head slowly, unable to come up with an answer. “We’ll try our best.” Was all he said. And with that, he walked out of the room, leaving them alone to recuperate.