(NEW YORK) — Oprah Winfrey is set to graduate the first class of her Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls on Saturday, a 10-year journey that has been filled with tears, trials and triumph, she told ABC News’ Diane Sawyer.
“I’ve learned so much. … I would do it differently but the fact that we are here is a triumph,” Winfrey said in a wide-ranging interview that touched on her own future in TV.
“This has been a journey of 8,000 miles,” she said Friday. “Tomorrow, for me, is about celebrating the journey this has been.”
In January 2007, the talk show host opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls on 52 acres in the small town of Henley-on-Klip, south of Johannesburg, South Africa. It took $40 million and six years to build.
At the time, Winfrey called the school — a promise to herself and to former South African President Nelson Mandela — “the fulfillment of my work on Earth.”
Of the nearly 3,000 applicants, 152 of the country’s brightest young girls were selected to attend the boarding school. The school currently has around 400 students.
Winfrey said Friday that despite their traumatic backgrounds, the students pushed forward and succeeded. All of them are headed to college, with 10 percent bound for a U.S. university.
Winfrey’s school has presented her with its own challenges as well.
In November 2007, allegations of sexual and physical abuse by a school matron arose. The school matron was dismissed and then charged with molesting several girls. Winfrey flew to South Africa, apologizing to the students and parents and praising the girls who’d come forward to report the abuse. The school went on to flourish despite the early setbacks, becoming an even stronger learning institution as they grew over the years.
The matron was acquitted in October 2010.
On Friday, Winfrey shared some of the lessons she’d learned since opening the school, including the importance of patience.
“What I learned in this process is that you do nothing alone and that you can have a lot of big ideas and a lot of big dreams and vision, but unless you have the infrastructure and the people, the team of people, to work with you, nothing ever gets done,” Winfrey said. “But through every single difficulty I have said to myself the investment is in leadership. It’s in the leadership of these girls.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Claire Moran, CNN
Holly Yan, CNN