Hometown hero and Pasadena High alum Marlen Esparza now has a key to the city of Pasadena to display next to her Olympic bronze medal. Hundreds of fans, family members and fellow Eagles gathered at City Hall for a special homecoming ceremony outside the mayor's office on Tuesday.
Esparza was the first American woman to qualify for a spot on the Olympic boxing team and the first woman ever to win an Olympic medal in boxing.
"I really want to tell people that they don't need anyone to look up to," Esparza said during a press conference before the celebration. "They always have it in themselves, they just need to find it."
But it was an emotional thanks to the community for its support that got fans out of their seats cheering for the young Olympian.
"I want to commend you for being a role model for students and young kids everywhere," Pasadena Mayor Johnny Isbell said. "You are a living example of how hard work and dedication really do allow you to reach your dreams."
Esparza said she is considering going for gold at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but is currently focused on attending college and starting a clothing line that will partially benefit health and fitness programs for youth.
Pasadena Mayor Johnny Isbell introduces Marlen Esparza during a press conference on Tuesday.
School Board President Marshall Kendrick receives an autograph from Esparza.