One in four kids in public schools need glasses to see the board, read a book, or participate in class; yet, in underserved communities, 95% of kids who need glasses do not have them. In Atlanta, more than 100,000 students lack the vision care and glasses they need to succeed. Students with uncorrected vision problems often avoid reading, suffer headaches, and have trouble focusing in class, as 80% of learning during a child’s first 12 years is visual. Students with uncorrected vision problems are more likely to fail at least one grade, less likely to read at grade level by third grade – a milestone critical to preventing dropout – and more likely to engage in antisocial and delinquent behavior. In fact, up to 70% of juvenile offenders have uncorrected vision issues. Vision To Learn provides a proven, cost-effective, and scalable solution by bridging a structural gap in healthcare access and directly addressing educational inequity. Our mobile clinics, staffed by licensed doctors, bring eye exams and glasses to children at schools in underserved communities, free of charge.
When COVID-19 first shuttered schools across Atlanta, we could no longer provide this critical service to students in need, so we quickly shifted our infrastructure to contribute to COVID relief. Collaborating with The Atlanta Hawks and Goodr, Vision To Learn staff delivered nearly 500 boxes of groceries to families in need across the region.
By late June, we were back to helping kids access vision care through our innovative partnerships with the Cobb and Gwinnett county libraries. As Tom Brooks, Communications Specialist from the Cobb County Public Libraries explains, “You and I might take it for granted we can hop in the car and go to the doctor, but for a lot of people, there are all these barriers that keep them from doing that.” Over the summer, Vision To Learn visited nine libraries in Cobb and Gwinnett, providing 492 eye exams and 300 prescription glasses to kids.
This school year, Vision To Learn began a new partnership with Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) to help students at their 10 most economically disadvantaged schools. Since beginning the partnership in late October, we have provided more than 4,000 vision screenings, 1,300 eye exams, and 1,100 glasses to GCPS students. We will continue to work with GCPS though the end of the year. Ayanna Browne, our Georgia Regional Director, projects that we will screen an additional 4,726 students, provide 1,174 exams, and give students 983 more pairs of glasses to students, free of charge, by the end of the school year.
Vision To Learn’s work this year is a story of great partnership and collaboration. With the help of Learn4Life and the Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia, Vision To Learn has built partnerships with the Primerica Foundation, the Gwinnett County Public Schools Foundation, the Atlanta Hawks Foundation, and others to bring our service to students in need in Cobb and Gwinnett.
Pete Silberman is the Director of National Operations at Vision To Learn. The Learn4Life Early Literacy Network has identified Vision To Learn as a bright spot in our region and is working to scale this intervention to more students in metro Atlanta.