Inside a loft at the Southside on Lamar, 11 men, mostly black, are working long hours hoping to break into the advertising industry.
"It's desire. It's passion and love," said Kamal Collins, of his advertising dreams.
Half of them will spend the summer in Dallas working on various creative projects for clients such as Globe Aware, a local nonprofit agency. The other half of the group is hitting the road conducting a research study on broadband use for program sponsor and client AT&T Inc.
"Learning from our consumers is really important to us. Understanding how they truly use services or products helps us in developing more or adjusting things if we're not going in the right direction," said Rosa Esquivel, director of Diverse Markets.
The Marcus Graham Project, named for Eddie Murphy's advertising executive character in the '90s movie Boomerang, was the vision of former advertising professional Lincoln Stephens.
"When I was working at an agency, I was the only one that looked like me," said Stephens. "I wanted to make sure that others that were interested, that they had access, that they were connected, that they were exposed to individuals that could help them throughout their career and help them to identify their potential."
From a computer at his headquarters, Stephens shows off images created by a past participant of the project, a man who is now one of the creative minds working on the Ohio State University website.
Stephens said it's proof the program works, and said he hopes it's an inspiration to others.