Oprah Winfrey poses with the graduates on her arrival at the inaugural graduation of the class of 2011 at Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls on January 14, 2012 in Henley on Klip, South Africa. (Photo by Michelly Rall/Getty Images)
The Oprah Winfrey Network will premiere a television special on October 14 following the journey of the first graduating class from Oprah’s Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. The two-hour special, The First Graduating Class: Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, will give viewers a look into the challenges and victories the 72 girls, who were only twelve and thirteen when they left home to enroll in the school, faced during their time at the academy.
“I have an especially close connection to this first graduating class,” Oprah said in a recent statement. “I hand-picked each of them. I can see who they are, where they came from and the potential of who they can be.”
The special will share the girls’ stories from the time they arrived at the academy up to their graduation this past January. Viewers will follow along as they prepare to graduate, apply for college, and make their first visit to the United States to tour universities.
The leadership academy’s doors first opened in 2007, fulfilling a dream Oprah had ten years ago to provide quality education to the poor in South Africa.
“To create a school that is able to change the trajectory of these students’ lives has been one of the greatest gifts of my life,” she said.
The idea for the school came to Oprah from a conversation she had with former South African president Nelson Mandela. She told him she wanted to fight poverty in the country by giving a “world-class education” to those who need it.
She invested six years and $40 million to build the school, which currently has about 400 students.
“I’m such a proud mother,” Oprah told ABC’s Diane Sawyer before the graduation in January. “They have taken this moment, this opportunity, and seized it in a way that I could only dream of.”
The special will premiere Sunday, October 14 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.