MARY J. BLIGE has returned to her native Yonkers, New York to show off her new women's learning institute on TV show OPRAH.
The R&B diva opened the Mary J. Blige Center For Women and revealed she's "so proud of this place" - because it helps her give back to the community where she grew up.
The singer took Oprah cameras back to the mean streets of her home town and visited the apartment building where she lived as a child.
She recalled her hard times and the drug use that used to take place on her doorstep before visiting the women studying at her centre.
In the special, which aired in America on Tuesday (13Apr10), Blige chatted with young mums who told her the child centre wing of the project had been a lifeline for them.
The singer said, "This is one of the most important places because, when women are looking for jobs, a lot of time they don't have babysitters - and that's another thing that holds them back."
One student, a mum-of-three, revealed, "I'm 33 years old, a single mother... and was never able to go back to school. I had my daughter when I was 15 years old."
Blige, who dropped out of high school at 16, is also mentoring students at the Women's Academy of Excellence in The Bronx.
Her Oprah special also included a visit to the institute.
The first class at the WAE, which also features Jay-Z, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith on the board, will graduate this spring (10) and Blige admitted she wishes she was one of the girls heading off to college: "I live vicariously through them."
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