Oprah's school graduates its first class

Oprah Winfrey walks with honor graduates after the first graduation ceremony at Oprah Winfrey's leadership academy for girls in Henley on Klip, South Africa, Saturday Jan. 14, 2012. Winfrey said the first students to graduate from her academy for underprivileged South African girls were "free to soar," during a graduation speech Saturday.
AP Photo/Jerome Delay

Saturday was the first graduation day at Oprah Winfrey's school for underprivileged girls in South Africa.

And, reports CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata, Winfrey was there.

It took six years to build and $40 million to get to this point, and comes after the school was engulfed in a sex scandal, but Winfrey says it was worth every penny and all the pain to see her girls graduate today.

She opened the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in Johannesburg in 2007, in the presence of Nelson Mandela. Nearly 3,000 girls from impoverished backgrounds and broken families applied. Only 150 of the best and brightest were selected.

Soon, the boarding school made headlines for the wrong reasons. Shortly after it opened, a school matron was accused of sexual abuse. Winfrey was profoundly disappointed.

But today, all 72 girls of the graduating class are headed to college, some bound for U.S. universities.

Compare that to the rest of South Africa, where more than half a million pupils dropped out. Only a quarter who did graduate did well enough to go to college.

"I have never been more proud," an emotional Winfrey said, "to know, to grow, and to call myself 'Mom Oprah" to you girls."

"To the world," one grad said, "you are Oprah Winfrey. To us, you are a mother."

To see D'Agata's report, click on the video above.