Gilbert teens finalist in 'duct-tape prom' contest - East Valley Tribune: Gilbert

Gilbert teens finalist in 'duct-tape prom' contest

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Posted: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 6:54 am | Updated: 8:17 am, Thu Jul 11, 2013.

Four months of work spurred on by collegiate and career dreams have pushed Gilbert Classical Academy students Liz Gazca and Josh Flader to the precipice of $5,000 in scholarship money in a duct-taped themed, nationwide sartorial competition.

The two soon-to-be seniors are among 10 pairs of finalists in the Duck brand “Stuck at Prom” Scholarship Contest; a national competition in which teens had to craft/build prom outfits out of the company’s well-known adhesive product, then submit photos of themselves wearing them. Thousands of teens submitted photos of their gowns and suits for a chance to win up to $5,000 in scholarship funding for each person in a coupling.

It’s not exactly the most common means of earning scholarship funding, but every dollar counts in Gazca’s quest to accrue $100,000 to cover almost half of the $240,000 she’ll need to attend Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., after she graduates in 2014. Compiling that much in scholarship funding isn’t easy, which explains why Gazca grabbed a book full of scholarship opportunities that included the Stuck at Prom contest among its possibilities.

“This is the 10th scholarship I’ve gone for,” she said.

Next up was finding a partner to enter with and deciding on a theme for the unique garments. Gazca said plan A was to work with a different classmate, also named Josh, to create Flamenco-type clothing.

Plan A, however, fell through, and she instead came up with plan B and teamed up with Flader, who wanted to tailor the outfits to align with his favorite book series: “The Hunger Games.”

“I just suggested it and she went along with it,” he said.

A look at the pair’s photo spread on the Duck website,, shows the final result is similar to the flame outfits Katniss and Peeta wore during their introduction, complete with a mockingjay symbol.

The outfits are similar, but Flader emphasized he and Gazca didn’t copy the popular source material wholesale; rather, they made sure their outfits had a flair of originality.

“We just put our little swing on it,” he said, adding the final products are “almost like an illusion.”

Now came the hard part — constructing two outfits out of a material that has many purposes that do not extend to dressmaking. Gazca said they spent approximately 220 hours and used 24 rolls of duck tape over a four-month span to build their prom outfits. They, particularly Gazca, brought the material to school to tailor it in their free time, and they worked until midnight every night during prom week just to finish the clothes on time.

“The whole thing with blood, sweat and tears? It’s blood, sweat and tears,” she said.

Flader lucked out with his outfit, as the duct tape covered a regular suit the two purchased at a thrift shop. Gazca’s gown, however, had no cloth whatsoever. The inside of the dress did not have any adhesive on it, but the material does not lend itself to comfortable dressmaking.

When she wore the suit, both for prom and the ensuing Duck brand photo shoot, Gazca said her normal movements like moving and sitting down were difficult if not impossible, and the material made her sweat regardless of her location.

“You might drown in it,” she said.

Despite the discomfort, Gazca said the outfits proved popular at the Gilbert Classical prom, and she said they drew a crowd when they had their photos taken in an outdoor setting before the dance began.

“It’s just amazing how it turned out,” Flader said.

Having done their part to make it to the final round, the rest depends on a voting process hosted on the Duck tape website that ends on July 8. They can each get a $5,000 if they win, and at least $1,000 per person if they finish third. Visit the Duck brand website to vote.

Last year, students at Desert Ridge High School — the East Valley campus is part of the Gilbert Unified School District, but located in Mesa — won the grand prize. Lara Ford and Cole Sudduth each received the $5,000 scohlarships, with DRHS winning a matching prize as well.

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