Efforts in Baltimore Build on Success of Vision To Learn in California, Delaware, Hawaii and Iowa.
Baltimore Project in Collaboration with the City of Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University, Congressman John K. Delaney and the Abell Foundation.
Thousands of Baltimore students will receive an eye exam and glasses, free of charge, through a collaboration between nonprofit organization Vision To Learn, the City of Baltimore, and the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University. The multi-year project, kicked off May 10th at Hampstead Hill Academy, will bring a Vision To Learn mobile vision clinic to 50 elementary and middle schools in Baltimore in the upcoming school year. This project is supported with funding by the Abell Foundation; Congressman John K. Delaney, April McClain-Delaney and the CapitalSource Foundation; and The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. Ray Lewis and Crockett Gillmore of the Baltimore Ravens visited Hampstead Hill to support the program and help pass out glasses to the kids.
“We are excited to work with the City of Baltimore and Johns Hopkins University to bring our services to Baltimore. The glasses these kids receive will help them succeed in school and in life,” said Vision To Learn Founder and Chairman, Austin Beutner.
An estimated 10,000 students in the Baltimore City Public School System lack the glasses they need to see the board, read a book, or do their math homework. Vision To Learn bridges the gap in access felt by many students, and their families, in low-income communities. Vision To Learn’s optometrists work out of a mobile clinic vehicle that travels to school sites every day. Students are examined on the bus and, if glasses are prescribed, they choose their frames from a wide selection of colors and sizes. The glasses are then delivered to the kids at school. All of Vision To Learn’s services – from the exam to the glasses – are provided free of charge.
“Far too many young people across Baltimore lack access to quality vision care. As a City we have to not only build better schools, but also ensure our students have everything they need to be successful in school and in life,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “This project is a testament to the transformative power of public–private partnerships and will make a real difference for children in communities across our city.”
Students with untreated vision problems often struggle at school, and are less likely to achieve reading proficiency by third grade, putting them at greater risk of dropping out. In the 2016-17 school year Vision To Learn will provide over 3,300 exams to students referred by Baltimore City Health Department vision screeners, and every child who needs them will receive two pairs of glasses, free. A new mobile clinic will be dedicated to this project, serving BCPSS students district-wide for years to come.
“Improving health is key to ensuring better educational outcomes. If a student cannot see the board, they will struggle to learn, and our children will not develop into the leaders of tomorrow,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. “In public health, we must go to where people are to deliver critical services and provide care. Through Vision for Baltimore we will eliminate the barriers that prevent access to these vital learning tools, while keeping Baltimore’s children in school and ready to learn.”
This Baltimore project will be Vision To Learn’s largest on the East Coast, where the organization has already served schools throughout Delaware for the past two years. In addition to growing its presence in California, Vision To Learn has recently established programs in Hawaii and Iowa, and is planning to expand to several additional states in the upcoming school year. Baltimore’s program will serve as a model for delivering access to glasses in dense urban areas, and help build a growing national movement to provide eye exams to students at schools.
Hampstead Hill Academy is the first school to be served by this program; over the past three weeks, 131 students were provided eye exams from Vision To Learn, and over 100 will receive glasses. The centerpiece of Tuesday’s kick-off event was dozens of students receiving and trying on their glasses for the first time. More eye exams were conducted out of the mobile clinic van before the press event. Vision To Learn Founder Austin Beutner, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels, Baltimore City Public Schools Interim CEO Tammy Turner, and Congressman John K. Delaney spoke at the event.
Former Baltimore Ravens player Ray Lewis and current player Crockett Gilmore surprised kids and staff by attending the event and helping hand out glasses to the kids. “Everybody in here today, listen: glasses are freaking cool!” said Lewis, “I truly believe this is a no-brainer for a lot of people.”
This project was made possible with the support of Congressman John K. Delaney and April McClain-Delaney and the CapitalSource Foundation. “We are thrilled to lend our support to a program that will improve the well-being of thousands of Baltimore school children. Today marks the first step to providing glasses to students in need throughout Maryland,” said Congressman Delaney.
Vision To Learn began operations in Los Angeles in 2012, and in the last four years has expanded to schools throughout California, Delaware, Hawaii, and Iowa. Vision To Learn serves the needs of the hardest-to-reach kids in low-income communities. More than 89% of kids served by Vision To Learn live in poverty and 87% are kids of color. Since its inception, Vision To Learn has screened over 310,000 students, provided over 53,000 eye exams, and over 40,000 pairs of glasses – free of charge.
UCLA research 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 UCLA research can be found here.