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The new definition of school

By Heather Taylor-Singh

Going into a creative career can be challenging. But what if you aren’t taught the skills to sustain a successful career in that field?

Almost a decade ago, Chantel Chapman refused to do the final exam for an economics class she was taking. Her decision was undoubtedly a shock to her professors, but she was firm in her choice . “I was only [there] to learn and hear the lectures,” says Chapman. She says she didn’t need the validation from her professors. Instead, she just wanted to learn more about a topic she was already interested in.

Now she’s the co-founder of SCHOOL by Kastor and Pollux, an online platform started by Chapman and her business partner, Dani Roche. The pair met four years ago, when Chapman was a financial consultant for a client Roche was working with. She was impressed by Roche’s innovative ideas and the two kept in touch.

Chapman and Roche launched the SCHOOL courses in October 2018 to provide people with the opportunity to learn about aspects of the creative sector that aren’t taught in post-secondary. The idea for School was something she had been thinking about for a while before bringing it up to Roche.

SCHOOL courses are taught by creators and available at Topics range from how to be mindful with money to tips on working for free.

Chapman says she grew up mainly in a single-mother household and says her family struggled financially, so post-secondary wasn’t something she planned on pursuing. She says having access to the right tools isn’t always easy.

Dani and Chantel

Chapman says even though she wasn’t sure of her future, she was always a bit of hustler. She worked different jobs after high school, and at 20 she decided to go to university. There she took a licensing program to become a mortgage broker, which led her to becoming a financial consultant.

This is where she met Roche and found out about Kastor & Pollux, a creative agency run by Roche. Roche went to York University to study design. Chapman says Roche took some of the skills she learned in post-secondary, but also sought out education from different places.

“I was kind of thinking about my own personal relationship with post-secondary education and my own career path and then I was thinking about Dani’s career path,” says Chapman.

Chapman says Roche connected with idea of becoming successful on your own. The pair wanted to create a platform featuring other creatives who may not have attended post-secondary, and didn’t necessarily have a straight career path to follow.

Along with courses, School offers a one-for-one program. When a course is purchased, that same course is given to a marginalized community for two months. Accessibility is one of the platform’s main pillars, and creating an online platform was the best way to do so.

“Instead of saying it’s one person to one person, it’s like one class, one community,” says Chapman.

In a study published by Ontario Universities in 2018, 72.3 per cent of graduates employed full-time considered their work either “closely” or “somewhat” related to their program of study. Two years after graduation, the rate increased to 77.2 per cent.

Darian Ghaznavi is a third-year advertising student at OCAD University.

One of the reasons Ghaznavi enjoys his program because of the amount of feedback he receives on his work in-class.

Since the advertising program at OCAD is fairly small, he says the students rely heavily on criticism and feedback, and it’s detrimental if they don’t receive it. Ghaznavi says his focus in post-secondary is building up his portfolio and “self-initiated” projects that will make him stand out in the advertising industry.

Ghaznavi hopes to get a job in the advertising sector, and although he values his education, he is more interested than gaining skills than high grades.

“With any of the arts programs, you go in to garner skills and also build up a body work,” explains Ghaznavi. “That’s the main purpose.”

Students seem to be focused on contributing to projects that interest them, regardless if they’re being taught the skills in their chosen program. Similar to School’s online message of self-made creators who became successful outside of the traditional education system.

Photo: Brent Smyth

Claire McCulloch is a third-year creative industries student with a focus in printing and publishing. McCulloch recently started a female-based online publication called Common Mag with a fellow creative industries student and friend, Danielle Howson. Along with being the design lead of Common Mag, McCulloch is the assistant publisher of RAD Mag, Ryerson’s Art and Design magazine.

She says the idea for Common Mag came about because the pair wanted to take control and have their own team. So they did.

Both McCulloch and Howson are in creative industries with a stream in graphic communications management but McCulloch says their motivation didn’t come from school.

“When I’m planning Common Mag, I’m not thinking about the 4 P’s of marketing,” jokes McCulloch.

McCulloch says creative industries is “very broad.”and she isn’t too fond of the core classes, because she says she finds them focused on business and entrepreneurship and a bit repetitive. She says she finds it beneficial to take courses in different programs.

She wanted to find something that combined business and art, and creative industries was “the only thing like it.”

McCulloch says most of her opportunities have started in school, but her “whole resume is stuff that I’ve gone out and done by myself.”

Although Chapman didn’t pass her economics class, and doesn’t have much formal post-secondary education, she has built a career path by herself, and hopes to create lasting experiences for others through School. Chapman hopes the platform can help young people who grew up like Chapman feeling lost and unsure of their future.

“Your path is the right path, whatever that is. It’s like discovering what works for you and finding your own way,” says Chapman.


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