Oprah Winfrey on Her First Graduating Class of 'O Girls'

Kimberly Brooks' new documentary follows the 10-year journey of Winfrey's Leadership Academy for Girls.
8:57 | 01/27/17

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Transcript for Oprah Winfrey on Her First Graduating Class of 'O Girls'
Tonight we bring you the inspiring story of a young woman who landed a dream assignment, working with Oprah at her school for girls in South Africa. The first year, bumpy, due to an abuse scandal involving one employee. But Oprah stood firm and ten years later, hundreds of young women's lives have been transformed with opportunities otherwise unimaginable. Here's Kimberly brooks with their incredible stories. Reporter: These are the girls. Bright young women from some of the poorest neighborhoods in South Africa. Chosen for the opportunity of a lifetime. It's not a given that any and every south African girl can get an education. Reporter: It was ten years ago this month when Oprah opened the Oprah Winfrey leadership academy for girls. This is a supreme moment of destiny for me. I've been coming to this day my entire life. Reporter: These girls had big dreams, but even bigger obstacles. The school was their life line. People don't understand, where we come from, what we've gone through. For some of us, this is our way out. Reporter: Five of the women from the very first class are sharing their stories as part of the new fusion documentary, "O girls." I wanted to help girls who were like me, girls who really wanted it. They could see the possibility for themselves, if only. You take that girl, you put her in school, you give her an opportunity to walk through the door of higher education, and we have what has happened here with these girls. Reporter: And in a much different way, Oprah would change my life too. As a woman and specifically as a black woman, to turn on the television and see someone who just completely owned her space, you know, you're drawn to that, you're inspired by that. So I knew out of college, the only place I was going to be was the Oprah Winfrey show. I basically harassed this guy until I got a job there. I landed an entry level job as an assistant at harpo studios. But my dream was to travel with Oprah and her team to her school in South Africa. I decided to write her a letter. I've been praying and visualizes myself in Africa with you and the team in June. I feel it's a voyage I'm meant to make. I remember the day she passed by and said, Kim, I got your letter. And I just -- I felt like my heart went down to my stomach and came back up to the top of my chest. It was cool. I've always wondered why you said yes. I said yes because I could feel your passion in that letter. I could feel your soul. I could feel the heart of you. I could feel it was something that really mattered and if I come across somebody who feels that this is what I'm supposed to do, and I can help that happen, then that's what I do. When I first got to the school and started meeting all of these girls, it's like we had known each other for a while. They would just run up to me, and they were very intrigued. I had a different accent, and they just were very curious. They wanted to teach me their phrases. They wanted to teach me their dances. And it was beautiful. But a decade later with 400 girls having made it through the academy, the o-girl sisterhood is spreading around the world. So we want this to be the numerator instead of the denominator. Oh, my goodness! Hello! Your room is not your average dorm room. Everything is a little bit special. Yeah. Like, this has never been on my to-do list. Salute torrian speech. This is my mom-o corner. So I have birthday cards from mom O. My bongee baby girl, so happy you're turning 20 and coming into your full self. I adore you and love you, mom-o. I love that. I don't know if she knows how grateful I am. I hope she does. I tell her all the time. What do you think when you look at this picture of your home? It's just one of those things where I don't even have the words for it. But the emotions that I feel just brings tears to my eyes. Yeah, so, it humbled me. It just reminds me of where I come from. Oh, my gosh! Yeah. Yeah. The biggest thing that they have to do is balance this life, the American culture, and then going back home. I think bongaka has one of the toughest journeys home. Her house is a classic clay home, comes from circumstances that are, I won't say primitive, but certainly foreign, and she's graduating summa cum Laude at Spellman. Two different lives. Two different lives and trying to balance that world. That is a very, very challenging thing to do. I have people back home. That's what I always think about, who are waiting and who get up every single day and the driving force behind them getting up is the fact that I'm here. And so, you know, me being here gives them hope for, you know, a better life, whatever. So I can't afford to mess up. Yeah. While some of the women have been able to attend university in America, most have remained in South Africa. I wanted to visit one of the girls who stayed. Hi, Kim! How are you doing? I'm good! Good to see you. Good to see you. You look beautiful. Thank you. Reporter: Charmaine is working on a campaign to foster youth development in her south African township. So if you had to sum up your time since you left oleg, what would you even say? A lot of my identity had revolved around being an o-lag girl. What does that mean? I girl who never failed. You were a leader. Wherever you are, you needed to be an outstanding person, wherever you are, you needed to be the best that you could be. And I got to realize that you won't be great wherever you go. You know, sometimes there will be people who are better than you. And it's okay. Reporter: On this day, she's leading a book drive for young girls in the neighborhood. We are launching our campaign called "No girl left behind." It's basically to get young girls into the culture of reading. And not just reading, but into a community of sisters that support each other. ??? ??? Thank you for coming, and we hope you come again. Reporter: Meanwhile, back in the states, it's graduation day at Spelman college. How is it possible that a girl from the villages of wka-zulu, who had never read a novel before the age of 13, would come to one of the most prestigious colleges in the states? ??? Congratulations! So when you look at your life, where do you think you would be right now if you hadn't gone to the academy? I'd probably be dead. I think I would have gotten pregnant. So, a combination of, you know, feeling restrained, and probably being married to some guy who was not even smart, would have led me to honestly take my life. You say it with such certainty. It's hard. To be a girl where I come from. How do you say thank you to somebody who has saved your life? I am who I am today because of her. I feel as each one graduates, I think, all right, that phase is done. And well done. Well, well, well done. Reporter: For "Nightline," I'm Kimberly brooks in Santa Barbara, California. Check out the full o-girls documentary on fusion.net. Up next, Michael Strahan

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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