She told CBC Radio's Metro Morning Thursday that she's elated a school in Oshawa, Ont., will be renamed Clara Hughes Public School at a ceremony today.
"It's so special because for so many students, that's their place of incubation, their place of learning," she told host Matt Galloway.
"[The school is] everything that I'm about: Engaging youth and letting them dream big and not giving them limits."
During her interview, the cyclist and speed skater recalled how she had a troubled adolescence. She came from a broken home and got into her share of trouble. But when she did, it was often teachers that "brought me back," eventually helping her find her passion in sports.
"I had teachers that believed in me," she said. "They told me 'You'll get through this, you'll grow.'"
Since her Olympic career wrapped up, Hughes has gone on to become an advocate of mental-health initiatives, working to erode the stigma that often comes with mental illness. She has been a prominent public face of the #BellLetsTalk campaign, which is aimed at ending the stigma and silence that often surrounds mental illness.
Grade 7 student Marcus Bruusgaard, who will emcee today's naming ceremony at the school, said Hughes's story "encouraged me to try really hard in school and find my passion."
Bruusgaard told of how five years ago he ended up in foster care due to drug use in the home of his birth parents.
He's since been adopted and discovered his own passions, which include acting and playing the banjo.
"And here I am now in this great place," said Bruusgaard. "I went through a lot of tough times. I keeping saying, 'I have to keep going to get through this.'"
After the ceremony, Hughes will attend an outdoor play day at the school.