This Friday, January 29 at 10 a.m., the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque (CFGD) and the nonprofit Vision To Learn will provide students at Fulton Elementary School with glasses to help them succeed in school, thanks to a pilot program aimed at improving kids’ vision. The media is invited to attend this celebration of the Iowa pilot project, which provided free eye exams for nearly 180 students in Dubuque and Jackson County. Superintendent of Schools Stan Rheingans will also be in attendance to recognize the impact of this successful partnership.
The project was made possible with grants and donations from Vision To Learn and Theisen’s Home-Farm-Auto, with additional support from CFGD and the Community Foundation of Jackson County.
As many as 20,000 students in Iowa lack the glasses they need to see the board, read a book and participate in class. Due to lack of health insurance, difficulty accessing eye care providers and other obstacles, many students who are identified in state-mandated school vision screenings do not receive the follow-up care or glasses they need.
Since 2012, the nonprofit Vision To Learn has addressed this problem by giving children access to vision care through Vision To Learn vision vans, mobile clinics that travel to school sites. Students receive a vision exam from an optometrist and, if glasses are prescribed, can choose their frames from a wide selection of colors and sizes.
Between January 7 and 14, 2016, a Vision To Learn mobile clinic traveled to five elementary schools in Dubuque and three elementary schools in Jackson County. All of the participating schools receive Title I funding and a high percentage of their students come from low-income families.
Based on fall school vision screenings, optometrists on the mobile eye clinic examined a total of 178 students. Of those, 90 received prescriptions for glasses and will each receive two pairs of glasses—one to keep at school and one to keep at home—which will be delivered to the kids at school. Vision To Learn optometrists also referred 18 students on for further vision care.
CFGD brought Vision To Learn to Iowa through its Dubuque Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which works to help more children read at grade level by the end of third grade. Research by the University of California Los Angeles Mattel Children’s Hospital shows that Vision To Learn has a direct impact on education outcomes for children supported by the program and improves the learning environment for the entire classroom and school.
The Iowa pilot project has uncovered just how essential this outreach is:
- Many of the students identified as needing glasses have extremely high prescriptions, which is often an indication of a long-undetected vision problem.
- A significant number of students had been prescribed glasses at a young age and are still wearing the same prescription as many as four years later.
- A large number of students who should be wearing glasses have gone without for as long as two years because their current pair had been broken or lost.
Corrine Kroger, coordinator for the Dubuque Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, was on site for many of the screenings. “I witnessed many children trying on glasses for the first time and was struck that these glasses are going to make a huge difference for these kids. While it seems like a small change, it’s really going to impact their academic success for years to come.”
“It is hard for students to achieve in the classroom when they are unable to see the material being used,” said Rheingans. “This program provides another resource for students to access care they need to be successful in the classroom. It is another example of how public-private partnerships in the community continue to impact the quality of life in the Dubuque area.”
“Our goal is to help more children read at grade level by the end of third grade,” said Nancy Van Milligen, CFGD president and CEO. “A child’s health, including the ability to see the whiteboard or words in a book, can have a major impact on his or her ability to read and learn. We are excited to bring Vision To Learn to Iowa.”
Vision To Learn Founder and Chairman Austin Beutner added, “Vision To Learn helps provide every child with the chance to succeed in school and in life.”