Sometimes journalists have to hunt for good news -- it isn't so much that good people escape the pen, in as much as the bad seems to crowd the moment. However, August 2006 will end on a high note in Soweto, South Africa, due to the vision of one famous woman: Oprah Winfrey.
Winfrey launched the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, school for girls, by admitting the first 150 students set to begin classes in January 2007. The school --a $40 million personal project of Winfrey's-- is free to the students grades 7 to 12.
"I'm going to ensure that every girl who wants to go to university will go, either in South Africa or anywhere in the world, all you have to do is work hard," said Winfrey.
Winfrey's idea was born in 2002 when she ask Nelson Mandela what she could do for South Africa. The former South Africa president told Winfrey to build a school.
"The money means nothing to me," 52-year-old Winfrey told CNN. "When I look at these girls, I see me. That's why I want to give them everything I didn't have growing up. These are the leaders of tomorrow's Africa."
The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy is set on more than 50 acres outside Johannesburg and includes classrooms, dormitories, a dining room, library, and a 600-seat auditorium. Winfrey said it had to have an auditorium, because that stage is where leaders are born.
Admission to the school required high grades from those girls who applied to attend, and Winfrey interviewed each candidate personally.
The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy sets "rigorous" and high standards for girls in an environment that engenders academic achievement and service leadership, according to the administrator's press statement.
At a ceremony given in honor of the girls chosen for school year 2007, Winfrey told the girls and their parents that she had grown up in impoverished Mississippi and could relate with the girls in Soweto.
"I wanted to do this school for disadvantaged girls because I was disadvantaged myself."
"I want you to know that these are our daughters, I want you to trust me with them. I will create a good education environment for them and the world will know who these girls are," Winfrey told parents at the ceremony.
Winfrey added that she would return to South Africa before the school opens on 2 January 2007 and take all parents to the campus so they could see that their children would be at a safe place.
The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy has a high-tech security system to ensure that the children would be learning in a safe environment.
Future Leadership Academy and 12-year old student, Busisiwe Zasekhaya of Alexandra, South Africa, had this to say, "It feels like a dream come true. I will make use of this opportunity to make my aunt and the country proud."
Zasekhaya, who has been raised by her aunt, said her goal is to become a businesswoman after earning her diploma and that she would like to help children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
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