LOCAL

York City school helps kickoff partnership that provides free student vision care

Anthony Maenza
York Dispatch

If you have difficulty seeing, you have difficulty learning.

Students from Hannah Penn K-8 in the York City School District participated recently in a ceremony to unveil a program where students receive free eye exams and free eyeglasses, which ultimately could help them succeed more in the classroom. 

Department of Human Services Acting Secretary Meg Snead and Pennsylvania Department of Education Special Assistant to the Acting Secretary David Volkman visited the school to help kickoff a partnership between the state and the nonprofit group Vision To Learn for that purpose. 

The event kicked off the partnership that leverages federal Children’s Health Insurance Program funding and private philanthropic donations to provide essential vision screenings for students at schools in lower income communities covered by Vision To Learn. 

Because 80% of all learning in a child’s first 12 years is visual, having good vision is critical for those students, Snead said.  

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“Providing children with the glasses they need to feel comfortable moving through life every day is vital to their success in the classroom and beyond,” she said.

Pennsylvania children and families in lower income communities may experience different barriers to accessing essential services and health screenings, organizers said. The partnership with Vision To Learn aims to reduce barriers to health care and success in education by providing students with initial vision screenings, eye exams, and, if needed, eye glasses at no cost.  

Students from Hannah Penn K-8 in the York City School District participated recently in a ceremony to unveil a program where students receive free eye exams and free eyeglasses, which ultimately could help them succeed more in the classroom. Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Meg Snead and Pennsylvania Department of Education Special Assistant to the Acting Secretary David Volkman visited the school to help kickoff a partnership between the state and the non-profit group Vision To Learn for that purpose.

Vision To Learn operates mobile vision screening clinics, bringing screenings and exams to children at school, and replacement glasses are covered as long as the prescription remains up to date. The program brings licensed optometrists to school sites, easing barriers to care that would otherwise prevent many children from getting the glasses they need to succeed in school and in life. 

Before the kickoff ceremony took place, students completed eye exams and selected their new frames at the school using the mobile clinic.  DHS was approved by the federal government to support this partnership as a health services initiative, which allows states to use a portion of their CHIP funding to support community public health work. 

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Founded in 2012 by Austin Beutner, Vision To Learn has provided about 2 million students with vision screenings, more than 400,000 with eye exams, and 325,000 with glasses in 14 states and the District of Columbia. 

“This effort in Pennsylvania which taps unused federal dollars to help kids is a model for the nation,” said Beutner. “Every child, in every school, everywhere in the country should have the glasses they need to succeed in school and in life.”