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In California’s Title I schools, 19 of every 20 first-graders who need eyeglasses must struggle to learn without them.

Vision to Learn is trying to change that.

For four years, EGUSD has partnered with the organization, which provides free eye exams and free glasses to students in low-income communities. Vision to Learn has given away about 1,600 sets of glasses and has performed 1,800 eye exams for EGUSD students.

“EGUSD has been a fabulous partner since day one,” says Ann Hollister, executive director of Vision to Learn. “They’ve understood our needs and appreciate the value we bring to students.”

Here’s how the partnership works:

California mandates vision screenings for these grade levels: kindergarten, second, fifth and eighth. However, EGUSD screens each student in the district annually. If a student doesn’t pass the screening, he or she is given a consent form to sign up for an additional screening by Vision to Learn. Typically, 20 percent of students don’t pass the school screening; of that group, 80 percent need glasses.

Vision to Learn staffers bring a van to each school for two days, screening about 60 students and offering more than 30 styles of glasses. Two weeks after a student selects a style, Vision to Learn comes back for a fitting. If the student loses or breaks the glasses, they will be replaced—for free.

Doctors at Mattel Children’s Hospital at UCLA analyzed Vision to Learn’s model and found that the glasses make a big difference in the classroom. The study found that students who received the glasses improved their GPA in both reading and math.

“Whenever we go to the schools, we make sure everybody gets glasses if they need them—regardless of grade, income level or immigration status,” Hollister says. “Kids don’t know they can’t see. But when we give them glasses—they have an ‘ah-ha’ moment. They smile so much. They realize how different their world can look.”

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