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26th Annual Leader Luncheon at Pitt-Bradford

  • 29 mins
Empowering women is one of the core values of the YWCA. 
To that end, the YWCA Bradford has honored nearly 65 McKean County women since 1998 during its annual Leader Luncheon. Each woman has demonstrated leadership qualities and has made a difference in the lives of others.
Now in its 26th year, The YWCA Bradford’s 2024 Leadership Awards will recognize Ellen Mialky, founder of The Learning Center; and Asher Askins, senior at Otto-Eldred Jr. Sr. High School and at Seneca Highlands Career and Technical Center.
The luncheon was held March 13, 2024, in the Mukaiyama University Room of the Frame-Westerberg Commons at the University of Pittsburgh.

The YWCA Bradford recognizes Ellen Mialky as 2024’s Leader.  Ellen was born in Pittsburgh during World War II, and then attended school in a rural farming and highly ethnically diverse area north of the city. She graduated from West Deer High School and went on to graduate from Chatham College with a BA in American history and secondary education.

After college, Ellen married Ed Mialky and taught kindergarten for three years in Butler, Pennsylvania before joining the Peace Corps with her husband in 1968 and serving two years, teaching English in a secondary residential school in Techiman, Ghana, West Africa. This was an incredible, life changing experience where she learned so much from the people and students!

After returning to the US, her son Kevin was born and the family eventually moved to Bradford where daughter, Erin, was born. Ellen continued her teaching career at Room to Grow school for three years before it closed in 1984.

A group of former Room to Grow staff worked feverishly that summer to establish a new alternative school, The Learning Center. In order to meet state licensing requirements as a private school and child care center, Ellen was named the director. TLC eventually purchased and upgraded the former 4th Ward school on Jackson Avenue. Opening with 35 students from pre-k through 6th grade, the staff hoped to operate for at most 5 years but are currently in their 40th year!

Ellen worked as director for 38 years before retiring in 2022. During those years, she taught a preschool class and additionally supervised the school budget, hiring, building maintenance, fundraising, enrollment, public relations, staff needs, and state licensing. However, she gratefully acknowledges that the school’s success comes from an incredibly talented, dedicated and caring group of women who worked tirelessly and cooperatively with her.

With its non competitive, highly individualized program and family atmosphere, The Learning Center has seen a fantastic group of graduates working in a variety of fields nationwide. They are highly successful in their fields and as important, happy members of their communities. This is the lasting benefit that Ellen and the staff value most. All of this has also been created through the TLC family and community support.

Ellen is now adjusting to retirement knowing that the school is in excellent hands with Jill Neighbour as director. Jill attended TLC as a child and has carried on the school’s tradition very well. Ellen is spending time with her daughter, Erin Watson - a pediatrician in Williamsville, NY and son, Kevin Mialky, who inherited the education gene, who is teaching chemistry in Dansville, NY. Her four ever-busy grandchildren are a delight!

The 2024 Rising Leader, Asher Askins, is a senior attending Otto-Eldred Jr. Sr. High School and at Seneca Highlands Career and Technical Center. Her guardian is Sabrina Atkins.

At Otto Eldred High School, she has been on the honor roll her senior year. At Seneca Highlands Career and Technical Center she has obtained her CPR certification, Mandated Reporter certification, Square-One Immunize certification and Achievement Ethical Issues Certification.

Some local volunteer opportunities Asher has taken part in include wrapping gifts for the Learning Support classroom at Port Allegany hosted by the Port Allegany Rotary Club, making boxes for the food drive at ECE, volunteering in a first-grade classroom at Port Allegany and giving tours to the 6th and 9th graders entering Seneca Highlands Career and Technical Center. In her free time, she enjoys drawing, reading, studying, writing her own stories and spending time with her friends. Asher currently works at the Lodge at Glendorn.

Asher is currently pursuing an associate's degree in literature, language, and writing. She plans to work towards getting her Anthropology and Sociology degree in Early Childhood Education once she graduates from JCC.

“Asher is a very compassionate individual. She is always willing to help me or other students and has exemplified the YWCA core values. Asher has shown so much growth toward womanhood over the past three years as an academic leader. Asher is her own person and paves her own path in this world. She is feisty and resilient since life has definitely given her many curveballs.” said Kim Mooney, Seneca Highlands Career and Technical Centers Early Childhood Educational teacher.