On Saturday, 2 December, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG) celebrated the graduation of their 2017 Matric Class affectionately referred to as the “O-Mavericks”.
The graduation ceremony held special significance as this year marks the 10th anniversary of OWLAG. OWLAG was born from a pledge by Ms. Oprah Winfrey to former president Nelson Mandela to provide a world-class educational platform for marginalised girls that will 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, Ms. Winfrey gave the keynote address: “It’s been ten years, but it feels like it’s been forever and I mean that in the best way because it feels as though this school has always been a part of my life. I have spent a lifetime thinking ‘how do I give back what was given to me?’ I consistently think about how to provide the best facilities, the best teachers, the best staff, the best curriculum, the best experiences that will grow our girls into the women that I know that they deserve to be – it’s an ongoing process.”
“We are incredibly proud of these young women who have been steadfast in their commitment to their studies during their time at OWLAG and have already begun to make a tangible difference in their own communities,” says Melvin King, Head of the Academy. “We are confident that they will go on to achieve great success in their tertiary education and beyond.”
A host of awards for the Academy’s top achievers in its class of 2017 were presented throughout the event. Among the awards was the prestigious Top Academic Achiever of 2017, which was awarded to Arabela Chilwane. The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Award – a recognition that exemplifies leadership, caring, and generosity of spirit – was awarded to Thembisile Malinga.
“Parents and guardians, think back to 2013 when you let go of your daughter into the capable hands of the academy when she became one of the 0.8% given a chance to attend this marvelous institution.” This year’s OWLAG Class Representative, Blessing Ntokozo Ndlovu, said to those in attendance, “Did you think that she was going to turn out to be a game changer, to be an instigator of seismic change for her family, her community and the world, to be resilient, to be independent? Now all of that is proudly brought to you by the power of educating a girl child.”
As the graduates continue on to tertiary education, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation (OWLAF) supports the students as they step into the next phase of their lives and enter the workplace and return to their communities as women of the world. Ms. Winfrey’s goal has always been for each girl who attends OWLAG to also have the opportunity to attend and graduate from college. To date, 367 OWLAG graduates have attended prestigious colleges and universities around the world, with 343 OWLAG Alumnae who have registered at South African Universities. This year, nine OWLAG girls received college degrees in the U.S., and she attended each of these graduation ceremonies in support of the girls.