Earlier this year, students at our Mirabal Sisters Campus in Washington Heights received free vision screenings thanks to our partnership with Helen Keller International.
Since the partnership began in 2007, thousands of New York City children in Children’s Aid programs have received free eye exams and customized eyeglasses. During the visit to our community school in February, Helen Keller International provided its two millionth screening nationwide to 11-year-old Gabriela.
Gabriela, who lives with her mom in Washington Heights, aspires to be a veterinarian.
“To become a veterinarian, I need to put a lot of effort in my studies,” she said. “I really need my glasses to study because reading and writing is an important part of the classes.”
Undiagnosed vision conditions among children are one of America’s biggest yet most under-recognized health problems. According to a 2018 analysis from Education Week Research Center, more than 29 percent of schoolchildren across the state of New York have not had a vision screening in the past two years—if ever.
To combat this issue Hellen Keller International launched the ChildSight program in 1994. The program provides free vision screenings, free eye exams, and free prescription eyeglasses to school-aged children across the country. Through this partnership, the organization has distributed more than 13,000 pairs of free eyeglasses to students in Children’s Aid programs.
Mayor Bill de Blasio recently highlighted the need for access to vision care. He pledged in his January 2019 “State of the City” address to provide every kindergartener and first grader citywide with a free eye exam and free glasses through an expanded school-based vision program.
It costs Helen Keller International just $30 to provide a pair of glasses and an eye exam to each student. Adria Cruz, deputy director for health programs and integration at Children’s Aid, said that eyeglasses can be cost prohibitive for many families.
“I think sometimes it’s hard for some of us to grasp just how difficult it could be to afford a pair of glasses,” Cruz said. “If a child is having difficulty seeing what is on the whiteboard, they might just tune out.”
Gabriela’s mother, who called the ChildSight Program “excellent,” said she is excited to see what the future holds for Gabriela.
“My daughter is talented,” she said. “I want Gabriela to keep studying. I want her to be a professional in whatever career she chooses.”
Watch her video "Gaby-So I can be somebody in this life"