Alumni Profile: Breaking Barriers and Earning Accolades

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Tonya Millard decided to enroll in the Administrative Assistant program at Northeast Iowa Community College in 1984 because she wanted a career that would make life better for her and her three children.

“I wanted to instill in my kids how important an education is,” said Millard.

After graduating from Northeast Iowa Community College, Millard transferred to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., where she ultimately earned her master’s degree in counseling.

Millard spent much of her career as the director of family resources at Prairie du Chien (Wis.) Memorial Hospital. After 22 years, she left that position with the hopes of trying something new. But after months of receiving rejection letters for jobs she says she was qualified to do, those hopes were crushed.

“I was feeling the ageism creeping in,” said Millard, 61. “As soon as I’d walk in the door and they’d see my age, I could tell right away there was a disconnect.”

In fall 2016, Millard had an interview at the Dubuque Community YMCA for the position of executive director of social services. She left the interview thinking it would be yet another job she wanted, but wouldn’t get. Instead, YMCA CEO Sharon Covey offered Millard the position.

“Tonya came across with great passion and great enthusiasm. How do you pass that up?” said Covey.

Millard accepted.

In October 2017 Iowa’s Job Honor Awards recognized Millard for overcoming a significant barrier in finding a job. She hopes other people her age take note.

“If you have a brain and you want to work, you’re still worth something,” Millard expressed.

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