Oprah Winfrey reveals support for ISS

Oprah Winfrey recently disclosed her scholarship support of Indian Springs School at the National Association of Independent Schools’ annual conference in Chicago.

Angela DePaul, spokeswoman for The Oprah Winfrey Foundation and Winfrey’s Harpo Productions, confirmed that ISS has received educational assistance grants through the Oprah Winfrey Scholars program since 2002.

Winfrey announced her support during her speech at the NAIS conference on Feb. 27. She rattled off a long list of independent schools supported by her program, and thanked independent educators for inspiring her to open The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

ISS Director Gareth Vaughan would not disclose the exact amount of the grants, but he did say Winfrey’s support has helped nine students who hail from Alabama and the Mississippi Delta. All have graduated and gone on to college, he said. Vaughan declined to reveal the grant recipients’ names out of respect for their privacy.

Tuition at ISS is approximately $17,000 a year for day students, $29,000 for students boarding five days a week and $31,000 for students boarding full time.

Vaughan also said the grants have advanced diversity on campus. Winfrey’s program targets African-American students who have a strong academic record, but need financial assistance.

Exactly how ISS received Winfrey’s support is an unusual story, Vaughan said.

“This is a situation in which Ms. Winfrey’s foundation did the initial research and approached us,” Vaughan said. “We owe some gratitude to an organization called A Better Chance that was instrumental in pointing Ms. Winfrey’s foundation in our direction.”

Vaughan said five students will receive grants for the 2009-2010 academic year.

Winfrey opened her leadership academy in January 2007, and contributed more than $40 million toward its creation. The boarding school provides opportunities for academically gifted girls from impoverished backgrounds in South Africa.