BURTON, MI -- From learning about icons to becoming part of black history herself, Olympic gold medalist and Flint native Claressa Shields urged children Friday, March 6, at Burton Glen Charter Academy to strive for more.
"I wanted to tell them to look forward to the future, that they can become black history because I'm black history and I'm standing right in front of you," Shields said. She was the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in boxing.
Invited as the keynote speaker for the second annual Black History Month assembly -- delayed due to a cold day -- Shields said,
"Somebody who is my favorite is Harriett Tubman, not just because she was in the (Underground) Railroad and went back and saved people."
Tubman managed to escape slavery and became a leading abolitionist prior to the Civil War.
"She was just a very strong black woman and I think it took a whole lot of courage to actually be free and go back and free others and I feel like that's kind of my job as a Christian," Shields said. "I made it and it's to come back and save others to help them be as successful as they can be."
Another figure Shields looks up to is tennis star Serena Williams, who holds a mark she is striving for in the coming years.
"She has two Olympic gold medals. She is a great woman to me. I've met her sister Venus Williams and they just inspire me to be better," said Shields.
"I've seen a picture of Serena Williams where she had a gold medal right here (on one side of her face) and another Olympic gold medal right here (on the other side) and I was like she's got two Olympic gold medals and all of a sudden that became a goal of mine," she said.
"I've got friends that are in college. We all have different dreams, but as long as we set goals and accomplish those goals then I feel like we just keep going up," she said. "Nobody should be at a standstill at such a young age."
Shields also spoke to the importance of setting those goals at a young age, having decided at 11 years old she wanted to become an Olympic champion in boxing.
"For my whole life, it was just school and boxing school and boxing," she said. "Then finally I had the opportunity and I was prepared and I was able to conquer it."
Movie goers at the SXSW Film Festival
March 13-18 in Austin, Texas will have a chance to see Shields' story on film, with three screenings of the documentary "T-Rex
," by filmmakers Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari.