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Vision for learning

Brooklyn students get free eye exams, glasses through UFT partnership
New York Teacher
Miller Photography

UFT President Michael Mulgrew (right) and Vice President Karen Alford with OneSight founder Dr. Jason Singh and students outside the “vision van.” 


Miller Photography

Dr. Lamees Alshawkani administers an eye exam.


Thanks to a partnership between the UFT and the nonprofit OneSight, 500 elementary and middle school students from a UFT Community Learning School in Bedford-Stuyvesant had their vision screened recently, many for the first time. And they got the vision tests without even leaving school.

Those screenings at PS 335/MS 584 led to a visit to the school on April 23 by a “vision van” to give follow-up exams to about 120 students whose screenings had indicated possible problems. Following the exams, dozens of students received new or updated eyeglass prescriptions and picked out, were fitted for and received their glasses on the spot.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew, who attended the event, said good vision is essential to children’s ability to learn. “Children are struggling because they don’t see properly,” he said.

Lesia Davidson, the chapter leader at PS 335, recalled the reaction of one of her students who had a severe need for eyeglasses.

“When he put them on, he said, ‘Oh, my God, I can see the computer,’” she said.

Kimberly Boynton, the MS 584 chapter leader, said the middle school students who received glasses were ecstatic.

“‘Amazing’ — that’s how the students described it when they got their new glasses,” Boynton said. “They could see, and they were very happy because they were discovering things they couldn’t see before. One student said ‘It’s a whole new world.’”

Mulgrew said the partnership with OneSight developed after a visit to a community school in Cincinnati, Ohio. That’s where he met Dr. Jason Singh, the founder of OneSight, which has spearheaded public-private partnerships to deliver vision care for children in poverty in the United States and abroad. A simple conversation led to bringing the vision vans to New York City public schools.

The partnership between the union and OneSight became a model for other partnerships between local health care providers and other Community Learning Schools, said Karen Alford, the UFT vice president for elementary schools who leads the UFT’s Community Learning Schools Initiative. In the fall, comprehensive health clinics will open at PS 18 in the Bronx and PS 188 in Brooklyn to serve not only students in those schools but those who attend other public schools in the neighborhood.

OneSight will also be located in those schools to provide vision care. The SUNY College of Optometry, another partner, will hire pediatric optometrists to work at both clinics and assign fourth-year residents to work alongside them as part of their clinical rotation. The college’s researchers will use the partnership to study the effect of healthy vision on academic achievement.

Related Topics: United Community Schools