“These young leaders bring me hope for our future, and I look forward to watching each of them flourish,” she said of the 15 scholarship recipients
Oprah Winfrey is helping to support the world’s next generation of leaders.
Winfrey, 67, is launching a new scholarship through The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation that will benefit students who have displayed both academic excellence and leadership within their respective communities. After enduring a rigorous application process, 15 students from diverse backgrounds were selected to be a part of the four-year program’s inaugural class.
“I am where I am today because of education and the support of teachers throughout my life,” Winfrey said in a statement. “I am honored to support these students who have shown high achievement in their academic studies, but more importantly a commitment to their communities.”
Winfrey added: “These young leaders bring me hope for our future, and I look forward to watching each of them flourish.”
The selected students are attending some of America’s most prestigious universities, including Brown University, Harvard University, Columbia University, Howard University, Loyola Marymount University and Cornell University. Their areas of study range from mechanical engineering to music to pre-med.
Not only is Winfrey awarding the deserving students with a scholarship to attend the school of their dreams, but she also surprised the 15 recipients with the news on a virtual call earlier this summer.
In PEOPLE’s exclusive video of the call, Winfrey provides the students with encouraging words on what they have already accomplished and what they will continue to achieve going forward.
“There are young people like you in the world who are claiming your stake for the future and have done the work to prepare for a better life not just for yourself but for everybody else,” she says. “Everything that you’ve overcome in your life, every single thing, every obstacle, every challenge that we’ve put in for you, you stood up to that challenge. You kept going. You were willing to be the standout, even though other people didn’t understand what you were standing for.”
“Everything that you’ve done up until this moment has made you worthy of this scholarship and everything else that you have earned and will continue to earn,” she adds.
Winfrey notes that “the reason” the students were chosen to receive the scholarship is because of their desire to create a better world.
“You are more than interested but determined to use the fullness of yourself, the expression of yourself as a human being for the highest good — not just for yourself but to also do that for other people,” she continues. “You’re the one that we have been waiting for, and I am so proud of you. And congratulations!”
The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation has given more than $400 million in grants and donations to organizations with a focus on youth education since 1993. To date, Winfrey’s foundation has helped support the education of more than 72,000 people.