oprah & graduates

Media magnate Oprah Winfrey with some of the first graduates of her girls academy in South Africa

*(Via ABC News) – To most people Oprah Winfrey is known as one of the world’s most powerful media moguls. But to the students who attend her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa, she’s simply “Mom Oprah.”

Like any parent, Winfrey beamed and cried as she watched 72 of her “daughters,” the school’s first class, graduate on Saturday.

The young women were dressed impeccably in a uniform of white dresses and matching white heels. They sang a song of gratitude and celebration in Zulu, a South African language. Family and friends cheered as each girl accepted her diploma.

“The pride that I feel today is overpowering,” Winfrey said during her graduation speech. “I have been on a mission my whole life to be able to give back what I have been given. Today I am fulfilling that mission.”

The opening of the $40 million school, which is located an hour outside of Johannesburg in the small town of Henley-on-Klip, opened in 2007. Since its opening, the academy has faced challenges including accusations of abuse from a school official and the birth of a dead baby to one of the students. Even with the controversies, all but three of the original class of students is graduating, and all the graduates have been accepted to college.

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