Seven years later, this is how the Oprah Leadership Academy graduates are changing the world one degree at a time

Oprah Winfrey poses with the Graduates on her arrival at the inaugural graduation of the class of 2011
Oprah Winfrey poses with the Graduates on her arrival at the inaugural graduation of the class of 2011

In 2012, the first class of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy graduated with a 100 percent pass rate.

All the girls secured spots at universities in South Africa and around the world. Seven years later, we find out what some of the brilliant young women are up to today. 

Avukile Zoya

Class of 2012

Oprah academy graduates

Avukile has always been interested in the health sector and after completing her internships where she had the opportunity to work with nurses, doctors, and traditional healers, she knew she wanted to work with people who are invested in improving the health of South Africans.

This led her to Clinton Health Access Initiative in Pretoria, where she works as a sexual and reproductive health analyst. 

Through her work, Avukile seeks to better the quality of sexual reproductive health services for women through improved public health facility interventions and providing women with the family planning services they need to make informed decisions.

Although her work involves crunching numbers and data, she has been extremely fulfilled by her experiences in the field.

“It’s so powerful when women can take ownership of their bodies and make better choices for themselves and so we hope to give this kind of power to women,” she said. 

READ MORE: "Women will save South Africa" - Oprah Winfrey

Andronica Klaas 

Class of 2012

Andronica Klaas, Women, empowerment, Oprah Winfrey
Andronica Klaas

While studying a Bachelor of Science in computer science information systems at Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina, Andronica and two of her peers were approached by the Google igniteCS initiative to create a programme that would gauge the interest of minority students in technology. 

This inspired the inception of the STEMites summer camp targeted at young women from underprivileged communities.

The three-week-long summer camp gives high school students with an interest in STEM the opportunity to learn how to create a website using HTML while developing their leadership skills.

Andronica continues to look for ways that will empower young women in the technology field. She recently attended the Grace Hopper celebration of women in computing after being identified as one of the leaders in technology by her employer.

Mohau Mazibuko

Class of 2012

From Atteridgeville, Pretoria, Mohau inspires people to become the healthiest versions of themselves through her work for WW- the new  Weight Watchers.

Mohau Mazibuko, Women, education, empowerement, Op
Mohau Mazibuko

WW defines its purpose as inspiring healthy habits for real life people. This means making wellness accessible for everyone.  

Through a series of free festivals across North America, the organisation and its partners offered nearly 8 000 attendees the opportunity to hear inspiring speakers, enjoy fitness activities and provided an entire month’s worth of produce to a local family in need.

Through this initiative Mohau was able to see first-hand the immediate impact of her work in ensuring that families had healthy food to put on their tables.

“No matter where I end up in the world, I’ll always remember Maya Angelou’s words, ‘good done anywhere is good done everywhere,”” she commented.

2018 saw 58 girls graduate from the academy and to date, over 400 OWLAG graduates have attended leading colleges and universities around the world. 

READ MORE: 85% of South African learners aspire to go to university – where will they end up?

Here are more OWLAG graduates who inspire us:

Bongeka Zuma

Bongeka received her master’s degree in medical anthropology from Oxford University and is now a doctor of medicine candidate at Stanford University in California.

She was nominated as a change-making South African woman by Mail & Guardian last year.

Thando Dlomo

Class of 2011

Thando is a graduate of OWLAG’s first class, and has gone on to receive a master’s degree from the University of Southern California. She now works as a digital associate at Entertainment Tonight.

Lindiwe Tsope

Class of 2012

Lindiwe graduated with a master’s degree in sociology from Rhodes University and is pursuing a PhD. She hopes her research on HIV/AIDS will make a positive impact in South African communities. 

READ MORE: Meet the 13-year-old girl who won the Eskom best female scientist award

Mpumi Nobiva

Class of 2011

Oprah Winfrey has said she thinks Mpumi could become the president of South Africa one day.

After getting her undergraduate degree from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC, and a master’s from High Point University, she now travels the world as a motivational speaker, professional host and a strategic consultant. 

Here's to all the extraordinary women out there, may you grow, prosper and thrive in all your endeavours.

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