Blue and gold will be prominent in Albany this week as Albany State University conducts its annual homecoming activities, starting with a gospel concert this evening at ASU and culminating Saturday with the morning parade downtown followed by the afternoon homecoming football contest at ASU Coliseum.

There will be an influx of folks in town as alumni converge on Albany to celebrate the university and their time attending it. One of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Albany State has been an educational force that has long focused on an underserved population. Its work has improved our community and region, with influence that has reached the state and national levels.

That work was recognized again last week when Albany State was selected by the Wallace Foundation to be one of seven universities across the country — and the only one from Georgia — to participate in a $47 million initiative to develop models over the next four years for improving university programs involved in the preparation of school principals. The initiative will examine state policy for efforts to strengthen quality training statewide, which means the benefits will be felt beyond Albany.

That’s just one of the reasons to celebrate ASU this week. For those who are back in town for some or all of this week’s events, it’s a personal relationship they have with their alma mater. It’s that special bond that brings more than 25,000 former ASU students and supporters back each fall, revisiting a familiar place and reliving good memories. The college years are the ones that transition the individual from teen to young adult, the period in which a direction in life is found. It also generates memories that tend of focus on success and great friendships, some that last a lifetime.

While Albany State has a large impact on the Albany community and Southwest Georgia on a day-to-day basis, homecoming week brings a sharp focus to its role. The visibility of ASU alumni and supporters in the community calls attention to the work ASU has done, is doing and will do in its expanded role once its merger with Darton State College is complete.

The relationship between a university and the community it serves is critical to the well-being of both. Albany’s relationship with ASU is one that is mutually beneficial. It is a relationship that we all should work to strengthen even more. The stronger ASU is, the stronger the Albany community is as a whole.

That’s why this year’s homecoming theme, “We’re All In,” is especially appropriate. For ASU and the Albany area, success comes when we’re all in together.

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