Vision To Learn is now working in more than 200 cities from Honolulu to Baltimore, to make sure every child has the glasses they need to succeed in school and in life. We thought you might enjoy highlights of our recent work.
L.A. Clippers Foundation Scores in Long Beach
The L.A. Clippers Foundation joined forces with Vision To Learn in an effort to provide glasses to every child in need in the Long Beach Unified School District, which serves almost 80,000 students. Vision To Learn expects to help almost 7,000 children in LBUSD as part of this effort. When completed, LBUSD will become the largest district in the country to solve the problem of kids’ lacking the glasses they need to succeed.
At an event held at George Washington Middle School in Long Beach, future Hall of Famer and Clippers forward Paul Pierce told an assembly: “Vision To Learn gives kids the glasses…to excel not only in the classroom but also in life.”
Long Beach Superintendent Chris Steinhauser, who grew up in Long Beach and has worked in the district for 39 years as an aide, teacher and now superintendent, shared a few thoughts with VTL:
Q: Tell us about the effort with Vision To Learn.
Steinhauser: The beauty of Vision To Learn is this is the first time the entire [school] system at once will get help. Any kid that needs glasses will get them. This partnership with Vision To Learn is an unbelievable equalizer to help us close the achievement gap. You can’t learn if you can’t read. This will greatly accelerate our mission of equity.
Q: How do vision problems affect kids in the classroom?
Steinhauser: You get headaches if your vision isn’t fixed. As kids get frustrated, they can lash out in different ways. In Long Beach, we have a strict promotion policy. If you’re not reading at the proper level, you get retained. So kids might be retained because they’re not able to see the words properly.
Q: How do students like getting an exam at a mobile clinic?
Steinhauser: The kids love it.
Q: Vision To Learn started helping kids in Long Beach in 2014. How has life changed for students served by the program since then?
Steinhauser: One of the first schools was Whittier Elementary School, a high-poverty school. You see a whole different sense of feeling at the school when 50 kids get glasses. When I walk into classrooms there, I can see kids being scholarly. That school has had very positive gains.
Is That Eye-owa?
“This innovative program is another way we are mobilizing our community under Read to Succeed to help all children read proficiently by the end of third grade,” said Elisabeth Buck, president of United Way of Central Iowa.
Dotting the Eyes in Mississippi
Deuce McAllister, a New Orleans Saints legend and Mississippi native, joined the event and spent much of the morning telling kids how great they looked in their new glasses.
“You’re faced with a lot of challenges already,” he told the youngsters. “This is probably one of the missing pieces.”
Gayle Wicker, who leads Vision To Learn’s efforts in Mississippi, co-authored an op-ed for Jackson’s Clarion-Ledger with former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. “The benefits of good vision are profound,” they wrote. “Research shows that after receiving glasses from Vision To Learn, students’ math and reading grades increase, their classroom behavior improves, and they are better able to focus on class discussion and assignments.”
Vision To Learn’s work in Jackson is supported, in part, through grants from Jim and Donna Barksdale, Ambassador John Palmer, and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
Dodgers Foundation Plays Ball With Vision To Learn
“Vision problems keep kids from reaching their full potential academically and in sports,” said Nichol Whiteman, the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation’s executive director. “You can’t play baseball without a bat or a glove, and you can’t do your best at school without good vision.”
Setting Sights on Newark
Jay Bromley, a New York Giants defensive tackle, put in a surprise appearance at the event and helped kids put on their new glasses. “I wouldn’t be in the NFL without my glasses,” he told the youngsters.
Among Vision To Learn’s supporters in Newark is the Overdeck Family Foundation. Laura Overdeck, chairwoman of her family’s foundation, said that sometimes the simplest solution makes the biggest difference in a youngster’s life. “By giving children the vision help they need,” she said, “we can open their eyes to learning and totally change their destiny.”
With an enrollment of more than 36,000 students, Newark public schools serve more students than any other in the state of New Jersey. An estimated 6,500 students in Newark need glasses to see the board, read a book, or participate in class.
As part of Vision To Learn’s collaboration with the United Farm Workers, VTL worked in the Merced County community of Livingston, California, to provide vision screenings, eye exams, and glasses to nearly 200 farm workers and their children.
“Empowerment is at the heart of what the UFW is all about,” said Arturo S. Rodriguez, the union’s president. By ensuring vision health, he added, VTL and UFW are helping to empower people to take advantage of opportunities they might otherwise be denied.
More to Come!
Vision To Learn continues to expand, and each day helps children in more communities across the country. Follow our progress on Facebook and Twitter, and feel free to contact us with any comments and suggestions.