Thursday, January 04, 2007
Oprah's Dream Come True
It started as a wish for a first-class school that would nurture, educate, and turn gifted young South African girls from impoverished backgrounds into the country's future leaders. Last summer it was time for Oprah to eagle-eye the final details, choose the uniforms and handpick the first 75 students. Click here
to take a look at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy.
"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,' she said.
The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, set to open next week, accepted 152 applicants, out of 3,500, to attend the 22-acre, 28-building campus 40 miles from Johannesburg. Amenities include a salon, a yoga studio, fancy cotton sheets, state-of-the art classrooms with airconditioning and heat and plenty of fireplaces and plush seating.
Leave it to Oprah to inspire the young girls with beauty, almost luxury, towards a better future. What started as a $10 million-dollar donation to build the academy has ballooned into a mega $40 million facility to behold.
"When you have a beautiful environment," she says, "it inspires beauty in you. That's what I want to do with these girls." She has also commissioned artwork by both renowned and emerging artists from all over South Africa so that the girls can live in appreciation and celebration of their heritage.
The Academy can't help but attract (good and critical) attention. Why all black? Why all girls? Why a school abroad? Why 200-count percale sheets? Newsweek has questioned the lavishness of Oprah's academy, in a country where poverty and AIDS are widespread.
It may be a bit overboard from the outset. The girls may be overwhelmed or distracted. They may even lose the tenacity that poverty taught them. But then, who's to say? It may be a piece of heaven on earth, that the girls are privileged to, and will continue to strive for. And maybe the critics in us have to do an abundance check and mull about why we are to judge who is deserving or not.
"Oprah says she decided to build her own school because she was tired of charity from a distance. 'When I first started making a lot of money,' she says, 'I really became frustrated with the fact that all I did was write check after check to this or that charity without really feeling like it was a part of me.'
Newsweek said: "To a certain degree, she is building this school for herself: the plucky girl who became one of the most successful women in the world yet still feels that pain of rape and poverty. If she can save these girls, perhaps she can rescue that child, too."
Posted by TOW Blog at 11:30 AM