One of my favorite family stories is about the time my mom found out she needed glasses. After an eye test at school in the second grade, the teacher told Grandma that Mom’s vision wasn’t quite up to par. Grandma took her in to the eye doctor and got her a new pair of glasses, and on the way home Mom stared out the window in shock saying, “Look, Mom, there are leaves on the trees!” Before getting glasses, my mom didn’t even know what she couldn’t see.
When we tell this story, we laugh about how my Grandma probably felt like a terrible parent at that moment for allowing her daughter to go to school with such bad vision. The tragedy in it all is that many students come home from their eye test each year to parents who can’t do anything to help the situation. What happens to those students? How could a second grader, like my mom, learn and participate in class if they can’t see the board, and their parents don’t have the resources to help them see?
This is just one of the many factors that can contribute to low-income students slipping through the cracks of the educational system. Over 20 percent of school-aged children in the US have trouble seeing, but low-income students are two to three times more likely to have undetected or untreated vision problems.
If these students can’t see, they can’t learn.
If they can’t learn, they can’t graduate.
And if they can’t graduate, this cycle of poverty will continue to the next generation and beyond.
A small change – glasses – can be the first step to getting students on track to succeed.
This year, United Way of Salt Lake was able to pair our Community Schools with a new mobile vision clinic through our partnership with Utah Partners for Health. At this vision clinic, students were given on-site vision appointments and fittings for glasses. The glasses were later delivered to them at school for no cost. Because of this partnership, many low income students will be placed back on track to succeed along with their higher income peers. Like my mom years ago, these students will get to see what they’ve been missing for the first time.
To read about Jonathan’s experience with his new glasses, click here: http://uwslhub.org/2014/11/12/what-can-a-new-pair-of-glasses-do/