International stage and TV star Audra McDonald in Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Of all the accolades she has earned--six Tony awards, an Emmy, a Grammy and the national medal of the arts, today's honors hit home for Audra McDonald.

She was overcome with emotion as she spoke at the theater now dedicated in her name, at her alma mater Roosevelt High School

Audra especially encouraged the students to reach for their dreams.

"If you want to go on to Broadway or film or television, or any of the arts, that's great but there are other ways you can bring that humanity and compassion and passion into the world, doctor, teacher, social worker, carpenter, farmer, senator or a singer, or president, why not, why not," said McDonald.

Along with a key to the city and street named for her in downtown Fresno, her visit back to Roosevelt stirred up memories and even a team cheer for the hometown crowd.

The Roosevelt PA singers performed for their Broadway idol, on the same stage where she starred in many school productions.

Oliver Armstrong, Warren Armstrong's son was thrilled to get words of wisdom from Audra and take a picture with her.

"Seeing someone of that status coming from our school is incredible. She's our queen, she's our queen and it drives us even further," said Armstrong.

I was fangirling myself, taking a pic with my former seventh and eighth-grade classmate from Holland Elementary Project Talent, one of the first performing arts programs in Fresno Unified.

Before McDonald was whisked away, she talked to us about the theater dedication.

"It's an incredible honor. I'm very humbled and I just hope this theater continues to inspire kids like it inspired me," said McDonald.

The Audra McDonald Theater sign faces busy Cedar Avenue to share with not only those who enter the theater but every community member who passes as a reminder of Audra's grounded roots and her limitless heights.

McDonald's relatives are especially proud of the girl from a musical family. I spoke with her aunties who sing together and stay together.

"We've always said, stay grounded, stay grounded, don't forget your beginnings. And she hasn't. We love her dearly, we always will, she will always be Audra. Not the star that you guys perhaps see her as, but she's just Audra, she's just Audra to us," said Linda McDonald, Audra's aunt.

Nonetheless a star with Valley roots that run deep.
Copyright © 2019 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.