‘Vans Custom Culture’ design competition finalists head to New York City

Finalist: Carlsbad High School, California Region (Carlsbad, CA). Photo: Vans

Finalist: Carlsbad High School, California Region (Carlsbad, CA). Photo: Vans

On June 9, five high schools are heading to New York City where Industria Superstudios will play host to the final event of the 2015 Vans Custom Culture competition for which, emerging singer Bea Miller has been named the official headlining performer and a judge.

The design competition, an annual event, invites high schools from across the country to compete for a $50,000 grand prize that would go to benefit the school’s arts education program.

RELATED: 'Vans Custom Culture' benefits school's art program

To compete, each participating school created and submitted four unique designs that represent the Vans lifestyle, using Vans footwear silhouettes, by pulling inspiration from action sports, art, music and each school's own "local flavor."

Finalist: Parker High School, Northwest Region (Parker, SD). Photo: Vans

Finalist: Parker High School, Northwest Region (Parker, SD). Photo: Vans

"In the beginning we started with 300 schools," Megan Klempa brand-activation manager for Vans Custom Culture explained, "and every year it progresses as we fine tune it to make it a little bit better."

In its sixth year, more than 2,500 high schools across the country registered to compete from five regions: California, Northwest, Northeast, Southwest and Southeast.

By voting for their favorite designs over a period of a few weeks, the public narrows the field from 2,500 contenders to 50 semi-finalists. From there, Klempa and her team identify the five finalists.

Finalist: Circleville High School, Northeast Region (Circleville, OH). Photo: Vans

Finalist: Circleville High School, Northeast Region (Circleville, OH). Photo: Vans

Vans recently revealed the five schools vying for the grand prize:

Carlsbad High School – California Region (Carlsbad, CA)
Parker High School – Northwest Region (Parker, SD)
Circleville High School – Northeast Region (Circleville, OH)
Foothill High School – Southwest Region (Henderson, NV)
McCracken County High – Southeast Region (Paducah, KY)

Students looking to increase their chances of being a finalist next year, take note: "Standout schools hone in on the best materials to communicate their idea,” Klempa shared. "A main and determining factor is who had the most creative concept, in a way that it’s instantly identifiable."

Finalist: Foothill High School, Southwest Region (Henderson, NV). Photo: Vans

Finalist: Foothill High School, Southwest Region (Henderson, NV). Photo: Vans

Because each school submits four ideas, Klempa shared that they will often see a single shoe from a group that stands out, but the others are just OK — this competition requires hitting the mark in each of the four categories.

“Every school takes a different design approach, but successful schools break into groups where each of the students tackle a single design, working collaboratively. And [because they do this] they learn from each other," she said.

But winning isn’t all this contest is about. It’s about creating new friends and connections. “This is an emotional event, these kids bond, and some become best friends, others pen pals,” Klempa stated. “For me, seeing the faces of the kids walking through the doors for the first time makes every every e-mail and phone call made so worth it.”

Finalist: McCracken County High, Southeast Region (Paducah, KY). Photo: Vans

Finalist: McCracken County High, Southeast Region (Paducah, KY). Photo: Vans

If you’re wondering how far $50,000 goes, the answer may inspire you.

"Lakeridge High in Oregon (the 2013 champ) decided to install a Mac lab. For them, it wasn't about satisfying their momentary needs, but the needs of future students,” Klempa said. “They also invested in bean bag chairs that they use when critiquing each others work. And they still have leftover funds!”

Vans Custom Culture partners, Truth and Journeys are also providing additional opportunities for schools to raise funds for their art programs. Truth inspired the 50 semi-finalists with a challenge to customize a skate deck, and Journeys will be awarding $15,000 to the best display of the "local flavor" theme from the top five finalist schools. Additionally, the Laguna College of Art + Design (LCAD) is making available a partial scholarship to one senior, in each of the top schools.

Additionally, the winning “local flavor” design will be produced for sale at select Vans retail locations and Vans.com.

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