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LSU President F. King. Alexander, left, watches as Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome signs the "Capital Area Promise" initiative, Thursday, September 6, 2018, at City Hall in Baton Rouge, La.

LSU has made exceptional strides in recent years — in academic excellence; in art, music, and culture; in scientific discoveries; and, most near and dear to my own heart, access and success for students from all walks of life.

This combination of successful outcomes and priorities is why I support LSU, and in particular, the President’s Millennial Scholarship Program, which provides deserving students from all backgrounds with the opportunity to excel at LSU through mentorship and professional development. But in order for students to reach this scholarship program, they must first see that college is a viable option for them.

That’s why I am particularly proud of LSU’s partnership with East Baton Rouge Parish schools to chart a clear and distinct pathway to college for area children, starting as early as middle school. LSU’s Sixth Grade Day, which brings every sixth-grader in the EBR public school system to the flagship’s campus, is entering its fifth year. That’s 9,000 students who have visited LSU and realized that a college education is within their reach. LSU also hosts approximately 2,000 elementary and middle-school students from outside the parish each year.

University leaders, East Baton Rouge officials sign 'Capital Area Promise' for education

These efforts culminated earlier this fall with the development of the Capital Area Promise, which joins the efforts of LSU, Southern and BRCC with city and parish programming. It is modeled off of the Long Beach College Promise, started by King Alexander, now president of LSU, in 2008. It now serves as a national model of successful educational partnerships.

While I am no longer based in Louisiana, my love and passion for my home state has never wavered.

And I know that the quickest way to boost an economy for the long term is through education. College graduates go on to make an average of $1 million more than those without a degree over the course of a lifetime. But as we all know, it’s not just about money, although that certainly doesn’t hurt. It’s about all the benefits that accrue from attaining a degree — benefits like increased community engagement, better health outcomes and better job satisfaction.

Creating more visible pipelines from K-12 to college is a challenge we should all undertake — because more students graduating from college means more contributions to our local and state economies, as well as more businesses attracted to Louisiana and a general improvement of quality of life for everyone who calls the state home. That’s why LSU and the Capital Area Promise should be lauded by everyone who wants to see a stronger, thriving Louisiana.

James “Denny” Shelton

senior adviser, CCMP Capital Advisors