Planting the seeds of education
About 20 per cent of adults in Alberta struggle with literacy issues every day. Sara Tharakan (Management ’96) believes that access to reading during childhood plays a big part in remedying this.
Some of her favourite memories, she says, include reading books like Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit as a child. In fact, she couldn’t imagine a childhood without books. For many of Edmonton’s inner city children, however, it’s an unfortunate reality. But she’s determined to change all that.
On Valentine’s Day, she launched the My Own Book Project, a campaign to raise funds that will purchase books for the 450-some children at Delton Elementary School. Her goal: a book for every student to read during the summer months. On June 14, she and a group of volunteers are delivering each student their very own book. These books chosen for the project are from recommended reading lists or feature local authors that each student can pick a book to take home as their very own.
Sara initiated the project a few years ago when saw the need for providing school kids from low-income homes with books to help them strengthen their reading and writing skills.
It’s such rewarding work, she smiles remembering the grade-two student who ran up to her clutching her new book. “She said to me ‘I wanted that book’. Then I opened it and showed her that her name was written on the inside cover—it was such an amazing, emotional experience.”
Born and raised in Edmonton, Sara is involved with a number of projects and committees, including serving as a member on the advisory committee of the Stollery Women’s Network in support of Canada’s second largest children’s hospital.
Supporting local causes, particularly with a focus on entrepreneurship and education, is important to her and Sara recently made her first gift to NAIT.
The Tharakan Innovation Challenge Award was created to support NAIT’s Bachelor of Business Administration – Entrepreneurship students. To be awarded in the 2016/17 academic year, students will be tasked with finding a new use for an existing product. A panel of judges will select the top three ideas.
Sara believes creative thinking plays a large part in the success of any business. Providing these types of initiatives, therefore, will help shape this exact skill set in budding entrepreneurs and business practitioners.
“This award is meant to provoke the innovation spirit,” she says. “Edmonton is teeming with culture, energy, innovation and technology. As an entrepreneur myself, I wanted to contribute to this environment. It just made perfect sense to come back to NAIT – where I got my start–and do something like this.”
Cultivating untapped talent
It was almost fortuitous that Sara Tharakan, owner and CEO of Strategic HR Services, found her calling as a certified human resource professional. However, she was originally enrolled in the Accounting program at NAIT before she was encouraged to switch over to a new human resource (HR) co-op program being offered.
It took some convincing. Learning that she could transfer courses she previously took at the University of Alberta and at NAIT, it was too good to pass up. Sara was among the first to graduate with a Management diploma with an HR certificate.
Reflecting back on her time at NAIT, she says that because of her education, she was able to get a job right away. Sara has built a deep expertise in HR working the past 25 years in both the public and private sector. This expertise serves her well as she is able to lean on and share that experience with her clients.
Strategic HR Services provides consulting human resources services to help companies with all aspects of HR strategy, including recruitment, retention, health and safety, learning and development, performance management, and employee transition.
“I have had some real lucky breaks over the last five years,” Sara says thinking of how far she’s come growing her business. “I have the best clients and the work is always challenging, but fun. My favourite compliment is when a client says that I am not like a consultant, but that I am really like their HR department.”