Vision to Learn mobile clinic helps local students

The Vision to Learn mobile unit was parked in the back of Shannon School in Monticello April 12.

A'Laya Ellis gets her eyes tested by Dr. Fawziya Mirza, an optometrist, while on the Vision to Learn bus.

A'Laya Ellis, a second grader at Carpenter School, visits with optician Amber Singleton with Vision to Learn. (Photos by Kim Brooks)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Approximately 120 students throughout Jones County, kindergarten through fifth grade, received modified vision screenings thanks to the non-profit Vision to Learn.

     They were in Monticello on April 12, screenings students at Shannon and Carpenter schools.

     The Jones County breakdown includes:

     • Monticello – 53

     • Anamosa – 33

     • Olin – 14

     • Midland – 20

     After the initial eye exam and screenings done within the schools by the school nurse, Vision to Learn assists with free, modified eye exams. The Vision to Learn mobile unit pulls next to the school building and the students are escorted on for their exams and eyeglass fittings. Each student who requires a prescription also receives two free pairs of glasses, one to keep at school and one to take home with them.

     Once the student boards the mobile unit, he/she is met by the optician for the pre-screening. The optician measures how much light the eye can receive, the starting point for the prescription.

     Then, the student sees the optometrist in the back of the unit. This is where the modified vision screenings takes place. It consists of a non-dilated eye exam.

     From there, the optician measures the student, if needed, for a new pair of eyeglasses.

     “Some are referred on for significant vision care,” explained Corrine Kroger, Iowa regional director for Vision to Learn. “We try to pair them with a local provider.”

     Kroger said their focus with Vision to Learn is low-income, Title I schools, with the numbers based on the free/reduced meal program.

     This is the first time Vision to Learn has made its way to Jones County. The program started in 2016 with schools in Dubuque. The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque (CFGD) brought Vision to Learn to Iowa through the Dubuque campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which works to help more children read at grade level by the end of third grade. Research has shown 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.

     “It definitely affects academic success,” said Kroger. She said in Dubuque schools, two-thirds of the students never had a follow-up eye exam before Vision to Learn entered the picture.

     Typically, the professionals who give of their time and talent for Vision to Learn can see 25-30 students in one school day, spending 10-15 minutes with each student.

     Within the new few weeks, those students screened with receive their glasses. Vision to Learn will return to the schools to make sure the glasses fit each student properly.

     Monticello third-grader Caleb Tubbs who just finished his screening said he was asked to read letters on the screen, in different sizes, to see if he needed glasses.

     “I need glasses to read,” he shared.

     In the end, Tubbs got to pick out black and blue-framed glasses.

     Kroger said while giving glasses to these students might seem like a small thing, “it’s really going to impact their academic success for years to come.”

     It is completely free to the student, his/her family and the school district. Before the Vision to Learn screening, families must consent to the exam.

     “It helps fill the gaps for those families that struggle due to a variety of barriers,” explained Kroger. “There are several schools with high percentages of low income families; no one is turned away.

     “Eighty percent of a child’s learning happen visually,” added Kroger. “Glasses are a basic tool to help them succeed.”

     Vision to Learn in Iowa serves a seven-county region in Eastern Iowa, including Jones County. This encompasses 40 schools. The program is made possible through partnerships with Theisen’s Home*Farm*Auto, Klauer Optical Co., and the CFGD.



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