(NEW YORK) -- Oprah Winfrey may not have biological children, but thanks to the first graduates of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, she said she now understands the trials and tribulations, as well as the joys, of motherhood.
"We're texting all the time," Winfrey told Nightline in an ABC exclusive interview. "I was on the phone last night for an hour with one of them."
The maternal bonding began five years ago, when she handpicked 72 underprivileged girls out of thousands of applicants from shantytowns across South Africa to leave their homes for an opportunity at a top-notch education -- an idea inspired by Nelson Mandela.
"What is the single, life-changing, trajectory-changing moment for me was being exposed to a world of education that offered me insight into how I saw the world, and I just wanted to do that for somebody else. That's all," Winfrey said.
Five years later, six of the girls are in colleges in the United States. Like any proud mom sending her kids off to college, Winfrey said she got emotional over the idea of furnishing their dorm rooms.
"The very first morning that the girls from the United States were here and we were going-- I can't believe I'm weeping over Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond," Winfrey said. "But the morning that we were all getting dressed to go shopping at BBB for their college dorms, I mean, it just [was] the moment it hit me that all the pain, really, and challenges, and difficult circumstances, and the crisis we went through in 2007, and all the questions and times I thought about, 'Give them the money and step out of this and let them have it,' it all came to a head, a joyous fruition."
According to Forbes magazine, Winfrey has devoted $400 million to the girls' education in the U.S. and abroad. Her emotional journey involved in building the school is chronicled in a documentary called, "The First Graduating Class: Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls."
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