As a third-grader at Naperville's Spring Brook Elementary, Molly Schaus started playing hockey.
As a fourth-grader at Spring Brook, Schaus set a goal of becoming an Olympian.
As an alumna of Spring Brook, Schaus returned to her school Monday with an Olympic silver medal around her neck.
Spring Brook students greeted the U.S. women's hockey team goalie with a banner and an enlarged yearbook photo of her from fifth grade.
As she walked inside the gym, she was welcomed by several hundred students waving American flags and chanting her name.
Schaus was wrapping up a weekend in her hometown that included receiving the key to the city from Mayor George Pradel, who also had declared April 3 as Molly Schaus Day.
The Olympian lived in Naperville from second grade through freshman year of high school and graduated from Spring Brook in 1999.
"You never know, one of you may be on stage in 10 years and getting a key to the city," Schaus told students Monday. "It's a pretty special thing."
Pradel showed students the key he said opens the hearts of Naperville residents.
"She sat right down here in your school a few years ago and she was just as tall as you are now," Pradel told them. "And now she's taller but she's also taller in another respect in that she's gained the title of the silver medal from the Olympics."
Schaus took questions from students, telling them she has been practicing for three to four hours a day nearly every day for the past year.
Asked how she felt at the Vancouver Olympics, she said, "It's 10 years of hard work and sacrifice and there you are walking into the opening ceremonies with 200 American athletes in front of 80,000 people all going nuts. It's an amazing feeling and you feel everything at once."
Schaus also gave students some encouragement to pursue their own talents.
"My advice to you guys is to find something you love - whether it's sports, it's school, it's music, it's theater, whatever you guys like," she said. "Follow that passion, make a dream and follow it because you never know what can happen and just have fun with it."
Physical education teacher Jenny Jansen taught Schaus in third through fifth grades and was well aware of her desire to be an Olympian even then. She called Schaus a tomboy who was not only talented at sports but also had a good attitude.
"It's awesome," Jansen said of Schaus' return. "It's so exciting for the kids to see someone can grow up and do this."
After the rally, Schaus stuck around to take photos with students and teachers.
"It's really cool. I got to hold the medal and I think it's really cool I got to high-five her and get that close and that she went to the same school as me," fourth-grader Dakota Francis said.
Schaus wasn't the only Olympian to visit Spring Brook in recent weeks. Another alumnus, gold medal-winning figure skater Evan Lysacek, talked to students March 26.
"It's amazing we had two Olympians come to our school," fourth-grader Alexandra Van Cleave said. "It's like 1 million to one that they both get medals."
Schaus also planned a quick visit Monday to another alma mater, Gregory Middle School, before flying home to Massachusetts. She plans to travel more with her family this spring and will be visiting the White House with her teammates. Then it's back to hockey camps and training for her final season at Boston College.
In the meantime, she was happy to make a stop in Naperville to see friends, family and fans.
"Ever since I got here it's just been more people welcoming me home and it's a really special feeling," she said. "It's hard to put into words how much it means to see all the support."