Wheat Ridge High School painting students advance to semifinals in Vans Custom Culture Contest

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. - Painting students from Wheat Ridge High School are competing in the semifinal round of the Vans Custom Culture Contest, and you can vote to help them win.

"We are competing for $50,000 for our art program, plus a trip to New York to showcase our work, and a chance to have original shoe designs put into production by Vans!" said junior Haleigh Banninger.

"Wheat Ridge students, our teacher, Franky Scaglione, and his friend and Vans rep., Shawn Gruenhagen started the Vans Custom Culture Contest with Vans seven years ago, as the first and only school participating," Banninger said.

"Now, we have watched the project grow to include 2,000 schools, but we have still never won the nationwide competition," said Banninger.

Seven students each participated in the creation of all four pairs of shoes: (seniors) Sean Gaouette, Audrey Freeman, Tarryn Wilson, Janelle VanDyke, Andy Herrold, (junior) Melanie Bochantin and (sophomore) Tommy Miller.

The public vote continues through May 12.

Click here to vote: http://sites.vans.com/customculture/vote/2/

"In its fifth year, the Vans Custom Culture art competition inspires high school students across the United States to embrace their creativity and draws attention to the importance of art as an integral part of our schools' focus in the face of shrinking budgets," the Vans website states.

The first 2,000 U.S.-based public or private schools to register were given four pairs of Vans shoes to customize.

The website states, "Each pair must be customized to represent one of four themes: Action Sports (Defined as boards and bikes, not stick and ball!) Music, Art, and Local Flavor (Inspired by your surrounding community, city or state)."

"The collective group theme was 'Across America,'" Banninger explained. "Each pair fit into a subcategory: the New York City shoes (Vans authentics) represent "Art," the San Francisco shoes (Vans 106s) represent "Action Sports," the New Orleans shoes (Vans slip-ons) represent "Music," and the Denver shoes (Vans Sk8-Hi) represent "Local Flavor."

An internal selection and external public vote will whittle the entries down to a group of five finalists who will travel to New York City for the Vans Custom Culture Final Event.

Watch the video the students made about what inspired their unique creations here:

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