Cheerful students were excited to receive free prescription glasses in front of community leaders and educators at Rialto’s Charlotte N. Werner Elementary School on Friday, Nov. 18. The students were the first in San Bernardino County to be provided free vision services by Vision To Learn, a nonprofit organization with a mission to help kids in underserved communities get the glasses they need to see clearly at school. 400 free glasses were distributed.
Following last year’s debut in Riverside County, Vision To Learn plans to provide more than 75,000 free eye exams to students in neighboring San Bernardino County over the coming years.
“Vision To Learn is so excited to finally be launching in San Bernardino County,” said Vision To Learn President Ann Hollister. “The success of the program in Riverside County has made it easy to bring our services to the students of San Bernardino County.”
One in five public school students in the U.S. lack the glasses they need to see the board, read a book or participate in class; and in low income communities, 95% of kids who need glasses do not have them. Students with uncorrected vision problems often avoid reading, suffer headaches and can have trouble focusing in class, as 80% of learning during a child’s first 12 years is visual. Additionally students not proficient in reading by the third grade are more likely to drop out of school.
A three-year controlled study of the VTL program with Warby Parker (published in Journal of the American Medical Association — Ophthalmology 9/9/21) by researchers at Johns Hopkins University Wilmer Eye Institute found that students provided glasses gained the equivalent of an additional two to three months of learning compared to their peers who failed a vision screening but did not get glasses. Students in the lowest performing 25%, as well as those with IEPs and enrolled in Special Education courses, gained the equivalent of four to six months of additional learning, which was a higher impact than all other common educational interventions studied.
“Student success is very important to me,” said 5th District Supervisor Joe Baca, Jr. “When I was a teacher at Rialto High School, I noticed the students that had trouble seeing the board were the ones falling behind. This amazing opportunity is what we need to help our students succeed.”
Vision to Read was founded in 2012 by Los Angeles philanthropists Austin and Virginia Beutner, and provides vision screenings, eye exams and glasses to students who would otherwise go without. They use mobile vision clinics – optometric offices on wheel – to bring services directly to schools and community organizations.
“I am always looking for ways to bring new technology and services to our residents,” said San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman. “Vision To Learn’s mobile clinics are incredible resources and exactly what all schools need.”
Since its founding, Vision To Learn has helped provide more than 1.5 million children with vision screenings, over 340,000 with eye exams and 270,000 with glasses – all free of charge to children and their families.
“Caring adults, supportive families, and inspired students are the hallmarks of the educational spirit in our community. Vision To Learn personifies these hallmarks with its noble action to ensure kids have glasses to enjoy the benefits of their education experience,” said Rialto Unified Superintendent Dr. Cuauhtémoc Avila.
The program has helped kids in over 500 underserved communities in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Vision To Learn serves the needs of the hardest-to-reach children; about 90% of kids served by Vision To Learn live in poverty and about 85% are kids of color. This year another 100,000 children will receive glasses from Vision To Learn despite the challenge COVID-19 continues to present at schools. Expansion of their Southern California program is possible thanks to the support of several generous funders, including The Studio @Blue Meridian and an anonymous donor. For more information on Vision To Learn, please visit www.visiontolearn.org.