Nurses and medical administration from both Hillsborough and Pinellas county school systems have been seeing firsthand how the gift of sight is helping students be successful in school thanks to programs provided by the Glazer Vision Foundation.
Studies have shown that 80% of what we learn is through sight. But what happens when that sight is limited? Especially as a child?
That was a reality for many students across Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, some of which didn’t even know their vision was impaired. Thanks to over 100,000 screenings and more than 20,000 new glasses distributed by the Glazer Vision Foundation, children across the Bay Area are seeing – and learning – better.
The help provide those services, the Foundation launched the Mobile Vision Clinic, originally in 2009, that consists of a 40-foot RV updated in 2015, which is staffed with doctors, nurses and eye care specialists. It features an eye exam screening area, prescription lens lab and a full selection of eye glass frames so students can get their glasses as soon as possible. To date, the Clinic has provided those aforementioned 100,000 screenings and nearly 20,000 full exams. It’s translating into more success in the classroom and in some cases, raising the bar for entire schools, which has caused education administrators to take notice.
“I’ve been with the vision van since it came to Pinellas county, so I’ve seen the effect it’s had on students’ lives,” said Jennifer Holden RN, who is the assistant manager of health services for the Pinellas County School System. “We had, at one time, one of the five lowest-performing schools in Florida,” Holden said. “I think the vision van coming in has been a fundamental resource that we needed to improve the grades at those schools.”
Holden helps oversee students in 60 schools in Pinellas county. Her schools range in socioeconomic backgrounds and many come from underserved communities where students cannot afford proper vision care. These schools especially have benefited from GVF programs like the Mobile Vision Clinic, on which both students and parents have come to depend.
“The longer that we have this service, the more the families have actually begun to rely on that service being available moving forward,” said Holden. “The principals and teachers absolutely understand that vision is a huge part of any academic success that these students will have. The fact that the Bucs come out to the schools and provide them their glasses as soon as humanly possible, which really shortens the time students has to wait – even if their parents were trying to do that – can only be a huge asset.”
Kriss Kelley is an LPN at Ruskin Elementary School in Ruskin, Florida, which is a Title I school in Hillsborough County that the Foundation has been helping for over five years. Kelley says that her students rely even more heavily on their sight given that a majority speak a different language in the home and sometimes come in with a language barrier. Many of her students were those that never knew they had a vision impairment until the Mobile Vision Clinic came in and provided their services. Kelley says about 15% of their students wear glasses now and the school itself, which is also graded from year to year by the state, has seen their grade improved since the Mobile Vision Mobile started providing services, as well.
“I remember one little girl in particular came back into class so excited about her new glasses,” Kelley said. “These precious little children – they’re our babies. From the bottom of my heart, I’m so thankful for the Glazer Vision Foundation. It’s been such a blessing.”
The Glazer Vision Foundation was originally started as the Glazer Family Foundation in 1999. The late Malcolm Glazer, himself a glasses wearer, saw firsthand how providing the gift of sight could lead to success. Since then, the Foundation has donated screening equipment to county school systems across the region.
“I think the best way to describe how effective it is and how much it means is when you see a student who didn’t realize that they had vision issues put on their first pair of glasses,” Holden said. “If we could just capture that moment on film, it would tell you everything you need to know about how important this is as a resource to students. I can’t speak more highly than to tell you that if this was to ever go away, it would be a huge loss to us. But I know with the commitment the Foundation has, that’s not likely to happen.”
If you want to help the Glazer Vision Foundation and its efforts, it’s as easy as a hashtag on social media. Just include #OneShareOnePair on your post wearing your own glasses or sunglasses and the Foundation will donate a pair of glasses to a child in need. It’s that simple.