Congressman Sessions Honors Latexo UIL Math Team

By Kelly Nicol

Messenger Publisher

LATEXO – The Latexo Math team has been well known within the Houston County area and the UIL math communities through the many years of success that teacher Audrey Cravens has been producing winners. Recently, this success caught the attention of the District Director of the 17th Congressional District, Kevin Burnette. He had heard the stories of a teacher at Latexo High School who had won 11 state championships in a row and was placing students from this small rural town in some of the best schools in the country. He started doing his research and gathering information that he shared with U.S. Congressman Pete Sessions. 

Both having math backgrounds, they were very interested in this phenomenon that was occurring right in their district.  As luck would have it, Burnette was traveling and as we all do, he had pulled into Buc-ee’s for a rest where he noticed a school bus with Latexo ISD on the side so he couldn’t resist the urge to go over and see who it was. Sure enough, it just so happened to be the Math Team. He began to visit with them asking about their competition. Mrs Cravens came out and after briefly worrying who this guy was talking with her student, they engaged in a conversation resulting in Mr. Burnette requesting a meeting at the school with the Math team himself and Congressman Pete Sessions. The meeting was set for Friday, May 3 at the Latexo math room. Unfortunately, Mr. Burnette unexpectedly passed away in his home on April 29. Mr Burnette had such a passion for this meeting (as well as Congressman Sessions) that even though the Congressman was grieving his longtime friend (whom he worked with in politics since 1976) he felt that his friend would want him to go to this school and meet this special teacher and her students.

Congressman Sessions began by telling the students about his background as an Eagle Scout and in mathematics, where he studied at Southwestern University, and that he worked for Southwestern Bell for 16 years, before entering into the world of politics. 

“Math has served me well,” he stated to Mrs. Cravens. “Thank you for what you are doing, what you are doing may have been done for years but what you’re doing is highly unusual in a world today that does not value not only education but does not value excellence in education. It is important to know that your process works. A process that has proven successful for many years. Achievement is very important for our country to be the greatest country in the world. It means that we have to encourage people to give views and knowledge and it can’t be just one or two people and you guys have come across something which you’ll recognize really quickly when you get older, a great American philosopher that you will know even at the age of 10th grade. ‘Buzz Lightyear’ believed that we can harness the things that we need to move forward with great confidence about our future and it is a math world. Audrey is preparing you for the world and you are disciplined enough to wanna stick around and be a winner.”

The Congressman went on to tell the class about his two sons, both Eagle Scouts. His oldest son was in the top two percent, academically. He only missed one question on the SAT. He is now a medical doctor at Dell Seaton in Austin. His younger son who suffers from Down Syndrome, is in the bottom 2%, academically. Both of these young men get up each day with the knowledge that they can go and make a difference in the world and make a difference to other people with the relationship that they have not only with God but with the confidence they have. 

“There’s a lot of this in this room. I can see it in the exceptionalism that you do means that our country stands a chance to have a brighter future,” Sessions said. 

Congressman Sessions went on to commit to the students of the program that he would write them letters to their colleges to gain entrance and get scholarships. He was extremely supportive of the students and was willing to help them in any way he could. Additionally, he made a commitment to the program to give $1,000 per year for the next three years, in the name of his friend Kevin Burnette.  

Additionally, he committed to get whatever books that Mrs. Cravens needed from the Library of Congress and ship them to her. He committed to being a great partner to this program and would reach out to tech companies to help support the team’s efforts.

It was a fantastic day for Latexo Math team. The team was, as well as I, were moved by the genuineness of Congressman Sessions. He took time from his busy schedule and spoke with these young men and women, giving them inspiration and encouragement. I believe they were all fully invested and you could see the winning attitudes he spoke about, bursting to move forward. I, as a father of one of the students and the President of the Latexo ISD Board of Trustees, would like to thank Congressman Sessions for coming to see the students and giving his time. It was truly a remarkable experience.

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