A program that began in five schools just five years ago has expanded to nearly every school in Des Moines, helping thousands of students in the process.

Vision to Learn came to Des Moines Public Schools as a pilot program in the spring of 2017, providing free eye exams and glasses to students at Capitol View, King, Lovejoy, Monroe and Moulton elementary schools. Since then, the program has helped students see better at 47 DMPS schools, providing 5,633 eye exams along with eyeglasses to 4,637 students.

On Tuesday morning, in the auditorium at North High School, a celebration was held to mark the effort to help students see better … an effort that also means doing better in school and beyond. Vision to Learn recently provided exams at North with a focus on helping the school’s ELL students.

After some brief remarks several students participated in a quick “fashion show,” sharing their new spectacles with the guests before everyone grabbed an eyeglass-decorated cookie. Afterwards, down the hall, several more students were fitted with their brand-new eyeglasses.

While the Vision to Learn program is free to students there is a cost, of course. The generous supporters of the effort were also on hand and thanked: Delta Dental, Merchants Bonding, the Variety Club, and United Way of Central Iowa.

And, appropriate in the middle of National Nurses Week, the school nurses of DMPS were recognized for their help in coordinating much of the behind-the-scenes work in getting vision exams arranged for students.

While many things were disrupted due to COVID-19, Vision to Learn found ways to continue serving students. The past year alone more than 1,300 students received eye exams and, as a result, over 1,000 got a new pair of glasses.

As Melissa Abbott, DMPS health services supervisor, pointed out: “Despite the many challenges that the pandemic presented, Vision To Learn was able to shift and make changes in an effort to provide access to vision care to many students who otherwise would not have an opportunity to receive an eye exam or glasses.”

In looking ahead to next school year, Vision to Learn will be back with plans to perform 1,500 eye exams for students at 20 DMPS schools.

When it comes to helping DMPS students see better, the vision is clear.

Vision to Learn Celebration at North High School
Vision to Learn Marks Five Years at DMPS

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