Meet the First 15 Creatives Accepted Into One School, a New Program Elevating Black Talent

The students come from a wide range of backgrounds

a grid of multiple smiling black men and women
From top l. to bottom r.: Barbara Polanco, Van Leigh Armer, Jamal Parker, Laura V Eley, Tarahgee Morris, Temiloluwa Thomas, Liz Culton. One Club

One School, the ad school program for Black creatives launched by nonprofit One Club for Creativity in July and led by Spotify creative director Oriel Davis-Lyons, has unveiled its first 15 recruits as it prepares to launch on the East Coast Sept. 8.

The program is only open to people who have not been to ad school and the students, who were selected for their creativity, passion and commitment, come from a diverse range of creative backgrounds. The cohort includes a spoken-word performer, textile artist, animators, photographers, writers, AI developer, UX designer, videographer, music journalist and teacher.

One School is giving Black creatives like myself a platform to showcase our talent.

Van Leigh Armer

The students are Trey Alston, Van Leigh Armer, Trey Bradley, Elizabeth Culton, Nicole Francois, Laura Eley, Asia Irvin, Mutaurwa Mapondera, Tarahgee Morris, Jamal Parker, Bárbara Polance, Temiloluwa Thomas, Tyler West, Miko White and Jasmine Williams.

The course will run for 16 weeks. The class will be given 10 briefs that cover data-driven storytelling, out of home and other advertising disciplines. It will also offer tutoring and mentorships where students will be paired with Black mentors in the industry. 

“Looking through all the applications confirmed to me just how much Black creative talent is out there that we, as an industry, miss out on because we rely on the same pipelines year after year,” said Davis-Lyons, who will teach the East Coast cohort and helped set the One School up with helping redress the barriers that prevent Black talent from breaking into advertising.

Armer, a 27-year-old photographer who has secured a place on the program, said in a statement, “One School is giving Black creatives like myself a platform to showcase our talent and be challenged at the level of our potential. The program can be a true testament that you can live and thrive as a Black creative without compromise.”

Barbara Polanco, a 26 year-old stylist and music video director, who is also joining the course, added, “As an Afro-Latina Dominicana from the Bronx, N.Y.—the birthplace of hip hop—I have a unique point of view and a much-needed perspective to offer the industry. I’m excited to be a part of the next wave of creatives who will shape the future of the way we all view the world.” 

Following huge demand, One School announced earlier this month it would also launch a program on the West Coast, run by L.A.-based Ez Blaine, the executive creative director at ChowNow.

Applications for One School West are open until Aug. 30.

@saramayspary Sara Spary is a freelance journalist based in London. She's been a reporter for eight years, covering advertising and consumer brands.