The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG) celebrated their 8th graduation event as the 2018 matric class, affectionately referred to as the “Orions”, took to the stage on Saturday, 1st December 2018, alongside Founder of the Academy Ms. Oprah Winfrey and special guest and commencement speaker, the world-renowned producer, director and actor, Mr. Tyler Perry.
OWLAG was born from a pledge by Ms. Winfrey to former president Nelson Mandela in 2002 to provide a world-class educational platform for marginalised girls that would nurture a new generation of dynamic leaders. Inspired by Nelson Mandela’s emphasis on education, The Academy has welcomed talented, underprivileged girls to a new lifestyle; a world filled with knowledge, social skills and possibilities, and is proud to maintain a 100% matric pass rate.
During the annual event, Mr. Perry addressed the girls and their families, speaking to the importance of being chosen to have the opportunity to attend OWLAG: “Before the ceremony this morning, I spoke to Ms. Winfrey and asked her how she chose the girls. She said she looks for something special, something that sparkles and is unique. Today that is all I saw. I saw all the hope, brilliance and intelligence. Being the chosen one is special and wonderful. It gives you the opportunity to strive and go higher and do things that you would have not had the chance to do.”
During the ceremony, the Academy’s top achievers were recognised for their academic and leadership capabilities. The award for Top Academic Achiever of 2018 was presented to Nicolle Naidoo, with Anele Satsa being acknowledged as the runner up for top academic achievement for 2018. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Award, given to a student that epitomises leadership, caring, and generosity of spirit, was awarded to Lethukukhanya Mbambo.
“It is such an honour and privilege to exist in a space where you can become more than you were yesterday”, says Khensani Hlaise, 2018 Class Representative. “For my sisters and I, this journey has been of becoming more of ourselves, it has been about uncovering and discovering, a journey of shedding our fears and becoming who we truly have always been. We are all here because of a dream that Mum O had, one that Tata Madiba pushed along. Before we part ways, my dear loves, I am here to remind you that you are great, beautiful, strong and smart.”
As the 2018 graduates leave OWLAG to pursue their passions, they do so secure in the knowledge that the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation (OWLAF) will be there to guide them through their tertiary education and assist them as they prepare for their chosen vocations. Ms. Winfrey’s goal has always been for each girl who attends OWLAG to also have the opportunity to attend and graduate from college. 2018 saw 58 young ladies graduate from the Academy with Matriculation Endorsement. To date over 400 OWLAG graduates have attended prestigious colleges and universities around the world, with over 350 OWLAG Alumnae having registered at South African universities since 2011.