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Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy For Girls has been standing strong for more than a decade, providing women in Johannesburg, South Africa with the opportunity to further their education.
After having tea with the late Nelson Mandela in 2000, the media mogul was inspired to open a school in the Motherland’s southern country. By January 2007, Winfrey turned her long-time dream into a $40 million reality. The 52-acre campus, located in the small South African village of Henley-on-Klip, came equipped with classrooms, computer and science labs, a library with more than 10,000 books, a theater and wellness center upon opening. The school’s first graduating class consisted of 72 girls, in comparison to the 380 students enrolled today.
“I wanted to help girls who really wanted it. They could see the possibility for themselves, if only. If only they had the means to do it.” —Oprah Winfrey
Within that same year, Oprah decided to return to her leadership academy. A then-Harpo assistant by the name of Kimberly Brooks immediately took a leap of faith and decided to write a letter to Ms. Winfrey asking to join her on her trip to South Africa. Little did Brooks know, that once in a lifetime opportunity would open her eyes to the world and spark a full circle moment. That moment would come in the form of a documentary highlighting the challenges and success of developing an educational institute.
After working for ABC News and NBC, Brooks landed the role of host/reporter for FUSION Network. Today, nearly one decade after documenting the stories of some of Oprah’s girls, the Northwestern University grad sat down with the philanthropist for her documentary O Girls. In the upcoming hour-long special, Kimberly talks with the businesswoman and actress about her inspiration for starting the school, her relationship with the girls and why Winfrey took a chance on her ten years ago. O Girls will also touch on how five students of the academy’s first graduating class were able to overcome hardships despite speed bumps in the road of life.
VIBE had the opportunity to speak with Brooks about her experience of traveling to Oprah’s academy, the importance of education, and how spotlighting the accomplishments of women of color is a dream come true.