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  • Writer's pictureTerry McMillen, Sr.

How Education Enhances Communities

I was honored in 2016 to be awarded the Champions of Learning Award in the Business Partnership category by The Consortium for Public Education. I have been involved with student learning activities for many years because I believe education is central to improving our communities by increasing our quality of life. Many young people do not understand the value of education and what it can do for their quality of life. This limits their potential and view of the world. Education changes lives.

Oliver Wendell Holmes said: “The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size.” I am convinced that the future of our region is dependent upon increasing the educational base of our young residents. We need to encourage young people to dream bigger, to look at a wider view of the world, and not be constrained by the environment they have grown up with. We need to convince them that an education is the path to achieving the bigger dream.

Man in cap and gown standing at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus podium with Nittany Lion statue in front of it and the American flag behind him as he delivers commencement speech
Terry McMillen, Sr. delivers commencement address at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus in 2010.

I had the privilege of delivering the commencement address to the Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus Class of 2010. My primary message was this: “Education is so much more than specific information. It provides depth and breadth to your life and life experience. It is the method by which society transmits knowledge from one generation to the next. The world today is fast changing and we need to know more than our parents knew and in a broader sense. An education will provide the basic groundwork to produce the knowledge needed.” A life-long desire for learning should be nurtured.

As the lives of individuals change, so does their community. It seems we are constantly presented with the bad news of our county and region- high unemployment, low employability, drugs and so on. I believe the way out of those conditions is education. Education in every form is valuable- engineers, teachers, nurses, business, and automobile repair, whatever may best suit an individual. Any form of education is acceptable- four-year college degree, community college, technical institutes, and certificate programs all provide additional learning. A broad base of education provides a community with the tools to better govern and improve its circumstances.

Social work majors, for example, can have the opportunity to change their corners of the community case-by-case. And nursing students can expect to touch many lives throughout their careers. But statistics show that it doesn’t even matter which life path you choose to pursue- higher education in all fields benefit their communities in various ways.

The benefits of higher education extend far beyond the classroom- in fact, they can lay a powerful foundation in civic engagement. Studies have shown that those who attend some form higher education were consistently more likely than their counterparts to take part in many civic exercises. These included attending town meetings or political rallies, working with others to solve issues in the community, signing petitions and contacting government officials.

We do better as a whole when each person is engaged, so it’s critical for communities to come together and strive for improvement. A report by The College of Scholastica states “Participating in politics is a birthright of US citizens-but to the dismay of many, Americans often ignore the polls during elections…. But when voter demographics are broken down, Americans with college degrees consistently vote more than their peers across all ranges. The health of the political system depends on voters to influence public policy and government. If you want to make the world a better place, voting is a good way to start.”

I believe education is the best gift we can give to future generations to empower them to sustain an ever-improving quality of life, so we need to encourage them and create in them a passion for learning. I believe business should play a key role in expanding education beyond the classroom by forming partnerships with schools and others to contribute beyond what the classroom can offer. We have resources, knowledge and especially life experience to encourage young learners to develop a desire for learning to go beyond the classroom. I believe this is how education enhances communities.

Learn more about our values and our belief in education at Be sure to check back next month to read about the value of long-term employees and why we are grateful for them.

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McMillen Engineering is a full service civil engineering and land surveying firm located in the Fayette County Business Park in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. It is the mission of McMillen Engineering, Inc. to contribute toward the advancement of the civil engineering and land surveying fields by providing quality engineering, surveying, and technical services to our clients in an efficient manner while promoting a work environment that offers opportunities for our employees to thrive both professionally and personally. For additional information about our civil engineering and land surveying services, visit or give us a call at 724.439.8110.



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