Most agree with Oprah comments

YOUNGSTOWN — Oprah Winfrey’s reported comment that American inner-city students don’t appreciate the learning opportunities they have rang true with some local individuals involved in education and work with young people.

Winfrey, who recently opened a $40 million school for poor girls in South Africa, spoke in a Newsweek interview about potential criticism for spending the money abroad rather than on education in the United States.

American students don’t appreciate what they have, she said, adding that she became frustrated visiting inner-city schools and just stopped going.

“The sense that you need to learn just isn’t there,” she said. “If you ask the kids what they want or need they will say an iPod or some sneakers. In South Africa, they don’t ask for money or toys. They ask for uniforms so they can go to school.”

“Oprah has a good point,” said Brian Keith West who works with Youngstown young people in his “It Starts Here” program.

“That’s basically the mentality that America has put into its youth,” West said, explaining that society tells them what they have to have.

“Our young people haven’t realized the importance of education,” said Kathryn Hawks Haney, a member of the city school board and executive director of Give the Children A Chance Inc. They have a lot of modern distractions such as computers and iPods to keep their minds off of education, she said.

Young people often fail to see the connection between education and using that education to get a job to get the things you want, said Jamael Tito Brown, a member of the city school board and executive director of human relations for the city.

“I think (Winfrey) is really on point,” he said, adding, “We really have to put education first.”

The president of the Youngstown school board said Winfrey may have over-generalized the situation.

“I believe that there are some kids that have that mentality, but we can’t paint all children with that same brush,” said the Rev. Michael Write. “I do think there are some young people whose minds are on education.”

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