Surrounded by the white-clad students of her all-girls academy, Oprah Winfrey is glowing with pride.
And just like many mothers at a graduation ceremony, the talk show queen cannot hold back the tears as the girls she calls her daughters stroll across the stage to accept their diplomas.
"I am one proud mama and for once I think I know what that feels like for real," Winfrey said before the graduation of the first class of her South Africa-based school last week. "It feels like a real sense of accomplishment. It is a triumph indeed, considering where all these girls have come from."
The TV star had every reason to be jubilant: In 2007, she had hand-picked all these students as she established the $40 million Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls to provide world-class high school education to underprivileged children from South Africa and teach them leadership skills.
Five years later, the 71 graduates of the class of 2011 -- all high-achieving young girls who had experienced poverty and personal trauma such as violence, molestation, or loss of a parent -- have all been accepted to continue their studies at universities in South Africa and the United States.