Oprah's "all-time favorite guest" to graduate from U.C. Berkeley

May 15, 2013 5:53:14 PM PDT
The woman Oprah Winfrey called her "all-time favorite guest" is about to become a U.C. Berkeley graduate. Two years ago, Winfrey praised Tererai Trent for her work to educate young girls in Zimbabwe, her native country.

Of the thousands of students graduating from Cal, no one has a story like hers. Tererai Trent was forced to marry when she was just 11-years-old in Zimbabwe.

"By 18 I already had three children without a GED, but I wanted an education more than anything," she said.

She's now a 52-year-old mother of six; and against all odds, including commuting three days a week from Salinas, Trent has more than achieved her goal. She already has two bachelor's degrees, a Ph.D, and a master's from other schools. This Masters in Epidemiology at U.C. Berkeley is the culmination of a dream.

"If I get this education, I could give back to my own community," Trent said.

She already started on that path when she came to Oprah's attention two years ago. The talk show host gave her more than a million dollars to build schools in Zimbabwe.

Tererai: "To see these kids going to school, I mean?"
Carolyn: "It's something you wanted to do as a girl?"
Tererai: "It's something I wanted."

Her children's father died of AIDS. Now with her new epidemiology degree, Trent will make AIDS education a priority in a country devastated by the disease. Her academic advisor calls his standout student incredibly dedicated.

"She wants to make a difference in the world," said Arthur Reingold, MD, U.C. Berkeley professor and head of epidemiology. "She wants to make the world a better place. In my Jewish religion it's called healing the universe."

In Trent's native Zimbabwe they have another expression.

"My mother said, you know, that culture we have if you bury your dreams, they'll always call you back," Trent said.

She heads back to Zimbabwe, just days after walking across the stage.


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