Tara Colton is Associate Vice President for Program Development and Planning at FEGS Health & Human Services. We’re proud to share that she’s also the recipient of the New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals (NYATEP) 2013 Statewide Leadership Award!
We wanted to feature Tara’s story on the blog, so we asked her a few questions. Here’s more about Tara’s role at FEGS and how she came to win the prestigious NYATEP award:
First off — Congratulations on your award, Tara!
Thanks so much! I’m incredibly honored and humbled to receive this recognition.
Much of your career has been dedicated to public service and education – creating a better world for New Yorkers. Who inspired you in your career path?
I feel so fortunate to have grown up in a family that placed a huge premium on education. My Grandma Mary, who passed away a few years ago, spent her whole life learning and reading and growing. My parents, Eileen and David, have spent their lives creating and valuing art and education and knowledge; my mom as a photographer, my dad as a journalist. And my husband Jed and my nine-month-old son Benjamin inspire me every day! They all push me to think creatively and boldly, to build a better world and a better New York, and to remember the importance of family and community.
What led you to FEGS and when did you begin work here?
I spent the last few years working in city government, first at the DOE and then Mayor Bloomberg’s office, coordinating the city’s adult education and workforce development systems. My time in government was invaluable and eye-opening, but I wanted to use my strategic planning, program development and policy analysis skills in an environment where I’d be closer to service delivery, clients and program operations. I started at FEGS in June 2013, and have been so impressed and inspired every day since.
Today you oversee FEGS’ Program Development and Planning Department. What does that entail?
This role provides me with a really exciting and unique vantage point, and I work across all of FEGS’ service areas. My main responsibilities are to identify and drive program development opportunities; lead research around evidence-based practices and policy issues; and, in partnership with the divisions and our fantastic Program Development & Planning team, to oversee the development of more than 100 grant proposals each year, to both public and private funders. It’s an amazing job!
How has your work at FEGS influenced your views on public administration?
After several years in government, it’s refreshing to be back on this side of the table. Not surprisingly, many of the issues we grappled with at City Hall – agency data systems not talking to each other, inconsistent terminology around outcomes, the need to streamline relationships with employers – present huge challenges for providers. I’ve been impressed at how FEGS staff are tackling these issues, and think there will be many lessons that can be shared with policymakers.
The NYATEP award was based largely on your work with the “Know Before You Enroll” campaign. Would you tell us more about the initiative and the impact it had?
Know Before You Enroll is a public awareness campaign I developed when I was at the Mayor’s Office, to help New Yorkers make informed choices about education and training programs, be cautious taking on a large amount of school debt, and understand how to file a complaint against predatory training providers. In the campaign, we featured four real New Yorkers sharing their stories and talking about how they got help. In addition to our advertising campaign and consumer education work, we successfully advocated for a bill to strengthen oversight and regulation of proprietary schools that was signed into law by Governor Cuomo last year.
Apart from “Know Before You Enroll” can you share with us an FEGS project or accomplishment that you’re most proud of and why?
As we all know, Superstorm Sandy devastated the New York region, and many FEGS clients and facilities were severely impacted. Working with colleagues across the divisions, in our facilities department and our central administrative office, I coordinated our application for Superstorm Sandy Social Service Block Grant (SSBG) funds, and am proud that we were awarded $2.17 million, one of the largest amounts in the state. These funds are so important to make our facilities and residents more resilient and support FEGS in providing critically important services to New Yorkers who continue to be impacted by the storm.
Thank you for all you do, Tara! Being recognized for your work by the NYATEP is an inspiration to many, above and beyond the impact you have at FEGS every day.
FEGS offers a diverse range of career opportunities, competitive salaries, excellent benefits, and the opportunity to work for one of the nation’s most well-regarded organizations.
For more information on careers visit the Careers@FEGS section of FEGS.ORG.