Kids across Northeast Iowa will be seeing clearly after Vision To Learn announced the addition of 45 schools for the 2016-2017 school year. Last year, Vision To Learn and the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque (CFGD) partnered to pilot the vision program in eight Title I schools in Dubuque and Jackson Counties. Nearly 180 students received free eye exams and 90 students each received two free pairs of glasses.
“We are thrilled to be able to continue this partnership with Vision To Learn and expand this pilot program to all our affiliate counties. We are lucky to have local partners like Theisen’s and Klauer who are so passionate about helping young people in our community,” said Nancy Van Milligen, president and CEO of CFGD. “Through our work with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, we know that there are still kids in our region who are not reading at grade level. Proper vision care is just one of the tools that can help them be successful in school.”
“Vision To Learn is proud to provide the critical educational tool of a pair of glasses to thousands of Iowa students,” said Austin Beutner, founder and chair of Vision To Learn.
Starting in October, the mobile clinic will begin traveling to area schools in Allamakee, Clayton, Clinton, Delaware, Dubuque, Jackson and Jones counties where it has the potential to serve more than 2,000 kids in need of vision care. The clinic will continue its journey throughout Eastern Iowa during the school year, and in the summer months it will make stops at summer programs and local organizations serving children. Students will be identified for an exam on the mobile clinic based on school screenings, and those requiring a prescription will each receive two free pairs of glasses—one to keep at school and one to take home.
The program is made possible through donations from Theisen’s Home*Farm*Auto, Klauer Optical Co., Vision To Learn and CFGD.
“Being a part of Vision To Learn provides kids the opportunity to see and therefore succeed. Theisen’s Home*Farm*Auto is proud to help sponsor this expanding program,” said Jim Theisen, president of Theisen’s Home*Farm*Auto.
The partnership with Klauer Optical Co., will allow the glasses given to students to be sourced locally. Students will receive their new glasses faster and repairs can be done more quickly, reducing the time that children must be without their much-needed glasses.
“Klauer has been working with the Dubuque Community School District for the past 10 years to help supply eyeglasses for children who need them, but can’t afford them or access them. The difference we have seen this make in the student’s school performance and overall well-being has been tremendously positive,” said Jeff Klauer. “I was very pleased to participate in the Vision To Learn pilot program last year, and look forward to taking an active role in the upcoming year in helping children in our community who need eye care.”
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.
Vision To Learn recently hired local optician Patricia Wilkinson to travel with the mobile clinic. Wilkinson, who is from Kieler, Wisconsin, served Northeast Iowa for a number of years during her career and was even able to work with the schools previously through a position with Klauer Optical Co. Vision To Learn is currently seeking an optometrist to provide exams to students on the mobile clinic. This will be a fulfilling opportunity to help set up students for success in Northeast Iowa. The position features generous pay, a signing bonus and an end-of-year bonus. Interested applicants should contact Amanda@visiontolearn.org.
Since 2012, the nonprofit Vision To Learn has given children access to vision care through Vision To Learn mobile clinics that travels 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.
CFGD brings 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.