(02/15/13) - Every year during Black History Month, The Genesee District Library takes a moment to honor men, women and organizations who are making strides in our community.
ABC12's Dawn Jones continues Portrait of Excellence series with honoree Claressa Shields.
Claressa Shields fought her way into the history books - literally. The 17-year-old boxing phenomenon became the first woman, in her weight class, to win an Olympic gold medal.
"I finally got my chance to get in the ring, perform, then I won the gold medal I was like, 'Uh, OK, I can relax now because it was really tense, so it was like a dream come true for me," she said.
Winning on the world wide stage has made the Flint teen a household name.
"A lot of more people know me now. I'm known basically everywhere I go. People want autographs and pictures all the time," she said.
Her celebrity status has also given her the opportunity to rub elbows with people she never imagined she'd ever meet.
"I be really excited, and I be like, 'What just happened?' and then I wake up the next day and I'm like, 'OK, was it a dream,' and then I go back on my phone and I read my tweets and I'm like 'Oh yeah, I was there.'"
The road to Olympic glory for Claressa was paved with doubts, uncertainties and a broken home life. She realized early on that choices are what sets winners apart from the pack.
"I told myself that everyone has their own life story no matter who their parents are, who your grandparents are, who your friends are," she said. "You have your own life story and your choices are yours."
She's a senior in high school, not even old enough to vote, but already her life story is serving as inspiration to people from all walks of life who also have hopes of making their dreams come true.
"They ask me, 'So what should I do?' and 'How did you do it?' I always tell them, when you dream about something, you have to take steps, you have to make your dream your reality. Whatever you have to do just always keep your dream first. You know, that's what I did it, was God, then boxing."
Claressa's immediate to do list is to win more titles, attend college and participate in the 2016 Olympics. She has many in her corner, but admits her true motivation comes from an unlikely place.
"People who are on drugs and alcoholics, they call me 'Miss. Shields', and when they see me, they are like 'good luck' and 'we are praying for you' and just for somebody who has a messed up life like that to actually care about you makes me to just keep pushing harder to make them feel happy," she said.
Claressa Shields will be honored at the Annual Genesee District Library Black History Brunch Saturday. The event is sold out.
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