WALLAGRASS, Maine — A third-grader at Wallagrass Elementary School is getting major recognition for his artwork from a national clothing retailer.
Austin Delisle’s colorful and cubist interpretation of a fire-breathing dragon was named the first-place winner among third-graders around the country in the P.S. from Aeropostale “What Makes You Smile” T-shirt design contest.
For his work, 9-year-old Delisle was honored Wednesday at a school assembly where representatives of the youth casual apparel retailer presented him with a $500 gift card, 50 T-shirts sporting his design and a $1,000 check for the school.
“We are really proud of Austin and his awesome design,” Jenny Bolduc, Augusta-based Aeropostale store manager, said at the assembly. “It is so wonderful to see how excited everyone is here and all the attention this small school is getting.”
While unsure what the $1,000 will be used for at his school, Austin was quick to announce plans for his personal winnings.
“I’m going to give $100 [of the gift card] to my brother Caleb,” he told the student body. “And I’m going to give another $100 to my friend Eden.”
Turns out, Eden Paradis, 11, is not only his friend, he’s a bit of an artistic muse, too.
The two boys were riding in the Delisles’ car on a road trip to Bangor about a year ago and, to keep themselves entertained, were drawing different shapes and discussing what they looked like.
“Eden made something I thought looked like a dragon,” Austin said. “I really liked it, so I drew my own and added the flames and colors.”
That drawing, on what his mother, Tammy Delisle, describes as a “ratty little piece of notebook paper,” was stored away and pretty much forgotten about until the family learned of the Aeropostale contest.
“I found the entry form on the Internet and Austin traced his design on that form and really took care and time to finish it and select colors,” Tammy Delisle said, adding her son’s creativity comes as no surprise to the family.
“This is a kid who is happy with a pencil and piece of paper,” she said.
Austin’s generosity in sharing his prize also comes as no surprise to those who know him.
“He is always thinking of others before himself,” his mother said.
“Austin did a really good job on his design,” classmate Kassidy O’Leary said. “His design really does make me smile a lot.”
For their part, school officials are as pleased with the positive attention Austin’s design has brought as they are with the $1,000.
“It’s pretty amazing that a third-grader from Wallagrass Elementary School won a national contest,” Austin’s teacher Samantha O’Clair said. “Austin is very artistic and likes to draw so it’s not a total surprise he would enter the contest.”
School Principal Jason Charette said Austin will have help choose how the prize money is spent.
“We are going to give Austin a voice in where the money goes,” Charette said. “It is my hope we use it for some things his classroom needs.”
According to a release from Aeropostale, students nationwide were given the chance in October and November to submit a T-shirt design expressing what makes them smile.
Each contestant’s family and friends had the opportunity to vote on their favorite design online, and the top 100 designs became finalists. These finalists were presented to a panel of P.S. from Aeropostale experts, including the brand’s senior vice president of design, for the final decision.
All design contestants and winners can be seen at www.pswhatmakesyousmile.com.
“This whole thing reminds me of neighboring Fort Kent when they say it’s ‘the little town that could,’” Charette said. “Austin has shown we are the little school that could.”