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New Jersey-bred basketball legend Essence Carson has used her path to inspire individuals to dream beyond their circumstances. She was recently honored by the Paterson Public Schools district for her contributions to sports and the community, Tap into Paterson reported.

The gymnasium at Carson’s former elementary school—the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Complex—was named in her honor. It was in that gym where Carson learned how to play basketball, the beginnings of what would lead to a storied career.

From her upbringing in Paterson to her illustrious college career at Rutgers University, the state of New Jersey has been the backdrop for pivotal moments along her journey. At Rutgers, she was ranked 12th on the school’s all-time rebounding list and 17th on the all-time scoring list. She also was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year for three consecutive seasons. Under the guidance of coach C. Vivian Stringer, the team won two Big East titles during Carson’s first two years.

Professionally, the 13-year WNBA veteran won a championship with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2016 and has taken her talents global, playing overseas in Italy, Turkey, Hungary, Spain and France. No matter how far basketball has taken her, she’s always stayed true to her Paterson roots.

Eileen Shafer, who serves as Paterson’s school superintendent, added Carson has displayed “the value of teamwork and overcoming challenges” and shown that “no matter how far we go in life, you can always come home.”

Carson, who attended Rosa Parks School of Fine and Performing Arts High School, has taken her dedication and tenacity into the music industry and now works as a Senior Manager of Label Relations at Motown Records.

This isn’t the first time Paterson has celebrated Carson. In 2016, she was bestowed with a key to the city, and Nov. 15 was designated Essence Carson Day.

The gymnasium renaming was a full-circle moment for Carson. Her loved ones, former teachers, and coaches attended the celebration.

“When I was a young girl, I just wanted to be good. I just wanted to have an opportunity,” the Rutgers University Athletic Hall of Famer shared in a statement, according to the news outlet. “People outside this city sometimes make you feel like this is the only place where we belong and that we can’t go anywhere else and that there is no upward movement. My first goal was to just go to college. I can’t tell you how surreal this feels. I thank Paterson for being my home.”

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