Viola Davis, a two-time Oscar-nominated actress, spoke to a packed crowd Friday at Bryant University.
Students from the Segue Institute for Learning in Central Falls, Davis's hometown, were thrilled to be in attendance.
"Because I get to support Viola Davis, and it's awesome because she's a huge inspiration to our school," said Fatou Ceb.
Davis was the keynote speaker at the Women's Summit 2014 at Bryant.
She has been donating thousands of dollars to the high school and the Segue Institute in her hometown.
"To me what that means is mentoring, literally reaching back and showing someone how to navigate themselves through the darkness. That's what's sorely missing in Central Falls," Davis said.
Angelo Garcia, the founder of the institute, has known Davis a long time. He said bringing his students to the event just made sense.
"When we talk about women who are making an impact and who are looking at where their trajectory is and reaching back to their community, she's the person we use as an example all the time," Garcia said.
"Everybody says even though we come from Central Falls, we can't have big dreams. But she's an inspiration and she has done big things and you see her here. Me sitting right here is really big for me. It's really important," Berenice Perez, a student, said.
In her speech, Davis spoke about her mother and her sister, Dolores, a teacher in Central Falls. Dolores's daughter, Annabelle Grant, thinks everyone, even outside of Central Falls, can learn from her aunt.
"I love when she does stuff like this because it makes everyone else feel the love that I have for her. Everyone loves her as much as I do and I think that's really important," Grant said.
Davis will star in a new ABC show co-produced by Shonda Rhimes, the creator of "Grey's Anatomy."