Ta’Dereious Phillips Jr., a six-year-old kindergarten student at Heritage Academy Elementary School, was excited to pick out a new pair of glasses Monday morning after getting a free vision screening and eye exam from the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation (GLLF).
After getting his vision checked, he found a pair of blue and orange Nike glasses that were just his style.
Phillips was one of about 21 students at Heritage Academy that received a free vision screening thanks to a $90,000 grant the GLLF received from Kia to do vision screenings within 11 Atlanta Public Schools (APS) as well as eight YMCAs throughout the summer.
The Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation provides access to affordable vision services throughout the state.
“We’re here today to screen children who may not have ever had any exam at all to determine whether or not they need to have further examination,” GLLF Executive Director Beth Ehrhardt said. “We targeted Title I schools because they’re the ones that probably need to have the vision exams and can’t afford it or where parents can’t afford to take the time off to go and find an eye doctor where they can pay hundreds of dollars for glasses. With this grant we have from KIA, we’re able to provide the exams, do the screenings with Lions Clubs and be able to provide glasses free of charge to these students that are identified.”
Access to vision screenings and other eye care services is an important resource for students to have. One of the primary focuses is on making sure the students have the resources and support they need to continue their development.
The APS 5 looks at measurable methods to close achievement gaps and improve outcomes for all students, and it includes Whole Child Interventions that five students the support they need to thrive in all areas of development and learning. Health and wellness opportunities, like vision screenings, help support the whole child.
“Vision is very important for students,” Heritage Academy Principal Trennis Harvey said. “This is important because it gives our students and parents access to resources that they may not otherwise be able to access. A lot of times our students don’t realize that they are not seeing clearly until they have these types of vision screenings.”
A simple eye exam can make all the difference for students in the classroom. The GLLF can screen hundreds of children in a short period of time. Children who need further examination can be seen by doctors at one of their many mobile clinics or receive a voucher they can take to their local eye doctor.
“We’ve had students that have had to sit in the back of the classroom because that’s where they were assigned, but when the teacher wrote on the board they had to go up to the front and sit on the floor to be able to read the board,” Ehrhardt said. “But once we were able to get glasses for that student, they were able to sit in their seat. It’s a huge effect on a child’s self-esteem when you’re not having to be picked out and do something different from the rest of the class.”
Vision is a primary indicator that educators look for in determining potential challenges a student might be facing.
“Vision is one of the first things we look at when we see a student having a potential learning issue or disability. We first look at their vision and their hearing,” Harvey said. “That’s how important it is. If we can get those things corrected early on, then the sky is the limit for our students.”
In Georgia, there are 52 counties that have little to no access to vision services, according to the Emory Eye Center. The average patient cost for an exam is approximately $25 per person, and glasses average around $300 retail.
“There’s a lot of people in Georgia that really have issues with their vision and they’re just kind of dealing with it,” optometry technician Terrance Wade said. “But just dealing with it and not trying to get it checked is just going to make your eyesight worse.”
Now that Ta’Dereious has had his free screening and exam, it’s only a matter of time until he sees through his new, free blue and orange Nike glasses.
If you or someone you know needs services, visit lionslighthouse.org/services.