It's a seemingly ordinary August morning, but it will be no ordinary day in the city of Johannesburg. Oprah Winfrey is here to view the new school she has dreamed of for South Africa. Beyond inspecting the handiwork of the builders, she has come to personally select girls for the founding 7th and 8th classes. From poor, troubled backgrounds, these too are no ordinary girls. Many have been hand-chosen by teachers across South Africa for academic excellence and early displays of leadership. On the cusp of adolescence, they are 11, 12, and newly-turned 13 years old.
At 52, Oprah feels her most important work has just begun. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls—South Africa is an innovative high school whose aim is to discover, teach and inspire young South African girls to become a new generation of leaders. It is the first of several she hopes to build in struggling communities on every continent. She's looking for brave girls, children who have already conquered adversity with a feeling of "I can!" That dream began for her a long time ago.
The idea of a school strikes the deepest chord in Oprah. "My own success has come from a strong background in reading and learning. The greatest gift you can give is the gift of learning." And so began her quest for special girls who want to learn, "bright-eyed wonders who have struggled in life," Oprah calls them. "I want somebody who already knows that education is empowerment, and who wouldn't have had the chance to fulfill the great possibilities of her life had this not happened. I want to change the trajectory of a child's life."