Friday, October 24, 2014

Wisconsin Vision
by Jessica Tighe

Hundreds of Milwaukee public school children are seeing better now thanks to Wisconsin Vision.

"I can only see O-H-T," Emanuel Fonseca says as he squints.

"Okay, so you see those big, huge letters. But you don't see those itty bitty letters?" a worker from Wisconsin Vision asks.

"No," Fonseca responds.

Fonseca is a sixth grader at Alexander Mitchell School in Milwaukee. School has been tough for him lately because he can't see the board.

"I struggled a lot because I couldn't see hardly anything. I needed to squint a lot," Fonseca explains.

That's about to change thanks to Wisconsin Vision. Each semester, the company picks a Milwaukee public school and conducts vision screenings on the kids. What the doctors are finding is pretty incredible.

"We had one child in one of the schools who couldn't even see the big E. That's considered legally blind," Darren Horndasch, the CEO of Wisconsin Vision, recalls.

When the words in the book are a blur and the classroom isn't clear, the kids just can't learn to the best of their ability. The teachers say it happens too often.

"I saw a lot of children struggle to be able to see. I saw kids struggling to take notes. A few kids so frustrated because they couldn't see well that they would give up and not care," Sabrina Salvat-Montoto, a teacher at Alexander Mitchell says.

"At this school in particular, it was one in three children who went through screening who required visual acuity exam and then glasses," Horndasch says of Mitchell.

That's more than 150 students who needed glasses at Mitchell. The school nurse says some of them didn't  even realize their vision was poor.

"I didn't realize how bad my eyes were until I put on a pair of glasses and saw leaves on trees and blades of grass and I think that might be the case, that they're not used to seeing and they don't realize how much easier it is when they can see the board and words in a book. The difference is unbelievable," Amanda Walker, the school nurse, says.

Once the doctors have determined the child's prescription, Wisconsin Vision gives glasses to the kids for free.

"You ready? All right, go ahead and put them on for me," the Wisconsin Vision rep tells Fonseca.

"Oh yeah, that's better," he proclaims as he puts on his new glasses.

Now Fonseca will be able to see the board and get back to learning!

"I think that we've helped a lot of kids learn better and see better and I think that's going to cut down on all the headaches at school. It's phenomenal for the kids. It's going to change a lot of kids lives," Walker says.

Wisconsin Vision started this program in 2011 at Clarke Street School, located in one of Milwaukee's poorest neighborhoods.
Since then, the company has donated more than 350 pairs of glasses to students in need.