CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Carroll High School is one of 50 high schools across the country that are finalists in the Vans High School Custom Culture program.
Carroll art teacher Marie Alford has applied to have the school compete several times, but this is only the second year the school was chosen, and the first it was named a finalist.
“I was so excited, the kids were excited. We felt accomplished that their art was appreciated. It was awesome,” Alford said about finding out they were selected as finalists.
“My initial reactions were just God working on his ways, because Ms. Alford said we had never made it this far. I’m just really proud of this team we have,” said sophomore Noah Hernandez.
“I was really surprised, like really shocked, because there were 250 schools, I didn’t think we would — I’m just really proud of us,” said junior Nevaeh Sutherland.
The students created their own designs that fit the themes of “Hometown Pride” and “Heads in the Clouds.” The themes were chosen to allow students to highlight what makes their schools and hometowns unique, and what they envision their future to look like.
Designs created by the Carroll students represented Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend in a multitude of ways; the Harbor Bridge, bluebonnets and mockingbirds, lotería, the flags of Latin American countries, and more.
“I just thought about Corpus and our city,” said junior Iris Lopez, whose design featured the Texas state flower and bird. “I wanted to make it for people to see it, and imagine themselves outside, seeing the birds, seeing the blossoms, seeing the flowers come out, seeing the sunrise come out.”
Leah Ortiz chose the Harbor Bridge as the inspiration for her design, with one shoe displaying the bridge during the day, one at night. She chose the Harbor Bridge because of it being a symbol in Corpus Christi, as well as the special connection it has in her life: memories of attending Corpus Christi Hooks games.
“Being able to go to the Hooks game, and after they win, they show off the fireworks, and have the flag across on the lights, and it’s a very beautiful thing to see,” Ortiz said.
Hernandez’ design fit into the “Heads in the Clouds” theme, and the potential it represents. He designed his shoe with a space theme, and painted it with a hydro dipping technique.
“What made me choose this design is saying that you can go wherever you want, you don’t have to stay in one place, you can be yourself and can go wherever you want in this world,” Hernandez said.
Of the 12 designs Carroll students created, Alford had to choose two to represent the school for the Custom Culture program. The two she chose were Aniushka Lugo’s flags of Latin American countries, and Miranda Glidewell’s lotería design.
Lugo, a sophomore, said she chose her design to represent the Latin American influence that is so prominent in South Texas.
“There are a lot of Latinos that live here, and the best way to integrate all of us, all of the Latino community, is to use the flags,” she said. “I think it’s important to represent your culture, to represent other people’s cultures too.”
Glidewell, also a sophomore, had a similar reason for choosing her design.
“Being in a predominantly Hispanic city, I feel like it’s a pretty common experience to play lotería with your family or with your friends at parties and stuff like that. My mom and her sisters would play with me when I was little,” she said.
On the voting website, Lugo’s and Glidewell’s designs are featured as the thumbnail to vote for Carroll. So, their designs have been seen across the country, by anyone who clicks on the link to vote.
“It was surprising,” Glidewell said, “because my work is being showcased in a way that I’ve never seen it be showcased.”
“It’s something that you don’t think would happen, something unexpected, so many people looking at your shoes,” Lugo said.
Alford said she is proud of her students, and what made her most happy was seeing them work together to come up with the ideas and designs for their projects.
“They helped each other, and they bounced ideas off each other, and it was a collaboration. It was wonderful to see them come after school, during their lunch time, they worked together, they learned from each other, and it was wonderful to see them inspire each other, bounce ideas off each other, and work as a team,” she said.
The grand prize for the winning school is $50,000 towards its art program, and the runners up will each receive $15,000.
If Carroll wins the grand prize, the money will be put towards 3D printers, a silk screen printing shop, outdoor work benches, art supplies, and more.
Voting ends Friday, May 7 at 7:00 p.m.