On the first snowy day of the season, Dr. Marty Carroll, an optometrist with Cheyenne Vision Clinic in Cheyenne, Wyoming, drove to Aurora, Colorado to spend his day off helping students at Sunrise Elementary see a little better.
“The future of the world is right here,” said Dr. Carroll of the 25 Sunrise students who were getting free vision exams and glasses that will help them do better in school. “Eighty percent of learning comes from vision, so if you can’t see, it’s a roadblock to learning.”
Dr. Carroll is one of 66 vision professionals who volunteered their time to provide free vision exams for students at Sunrise and 10 other schools in the Cherry Creek School District. The schools are all Title I schools, which means more than 40 percent of their students qualify for free and reduced lunch, an indicator of poverty. Those students may not have easy access to eye exams, dental check-ups or other health care services.
Jennifer Ellerbroek, the district’s Title I Resource Nurse, works exclusively with Title I schools to increase access to health care services for underserved students and their families. “Through targeted Title I interventions, we can provide school-based health care services to students, which promotes their health and academic success,” she said.
Ellerbroek works closely with Michelle Ricketts, the district’s insurance outreach liaison. “Connecting families to health care is what I love to do!” Ricketts said. “Access to care makes all the difference in the ability of students and their families to succeed in school and the community.”
Ricketts and Ellerbroek coordinate a partnership between the district and the Essilor Vision Foundation, which provided the free vision exams. Since 2008, the Essilor Vision Foundation has provided more than 400,000 free vision exams and over 100,000 free pairs of glasses to students across the country. The foundation’s goal is to “eliminate poor vision and its lifelong consequences.”
CCSD nurses and health technicians do initial vision screenings on all students, then referral letters and consent forms are sent home with students who qualify for additional testing. The Essilor Vision Foundation provides equipment for the exams and recruits local optometrists and opticians who volunteer their time to conduct the eye exams and help students select frames for their new glasses. Among the volunteers at Sunrise Elementary were Cheryl Copeland, practice manager at Table Mountain Vision, and Sandy Reed, a quality inspector with KBco, a polarized lens company.
“The kids are great – so much fun to talk to,” Copeland said. “It’s great that we can help them see and do better in school.”
“Everyone should be able to see,” Reed added. “It’s good to come out and lend a hand.”
“I’m thankful for them that they came and helped us,” said second-grader Adriann Lyons before picking out a sturdy pair of glasses.
Lyons is one of more than 400 Cherry Creek Schools students who received free eye exams this month. About 90 percent of those students need glasses and will receive them at no cost, thanks to the volunteers, the Essilor Vision Foundation and its industry partners.
“We are building self-confidence and self-esteem,” said Melissa Mason, brand sales consultant for Essilor. “It makes my heart smile every day.”