Baltimore City Announces 5000th Pair of Free Glasses Delivered to Students through Vision for Baltimore

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Citywide partnership will serve all elementary and middle City Schools by 2019

BALTIMORE, MD (December 10, 2018) – City officials and a cohort of partners mark another major milestone today as they celebrate the 5,000th pair of glasses provided through the Vision for Baltimore program to Baltimore City Public Schools students.

Launched in May 2016, Vision for Baltimore is a partnership convened by the Baltimore City Health Department with Baltimore City Public Schools, Johns Hopkins University, nonprofit provider Vision To Learn, and lifestyle brand Warby Parker that ensures elementary and middle school students across Baltimore receive glasses, regardless of a family’s ability to pay.

“As a City, we have to not only build better schools, but also ensure our students have everything they need to be successful in school and in life,” said Mayor Catherine E. Pugh. “Vision for Baltimore is a testament to the power of public-private collaborations and will make a real difference to improve performance, engagement, and opportunity for our young people.”

Maryland law requires students in pre-kindergarten, first grade, and eighth grade to receive basic vision screenings. However, challenges, such as lack of transportation and limited access to vision providers, can create barriers to a student’s ability to receive vision care.

Vision for Baltimore improves access to this essential learning tool by bringing comprehensive care directly to students in schools. Through the program, all students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight receive a basic vision screening. If a student does not pass the initial screening, he or she is eligible for a vision exam. Glasses are then provided for those who need them–at no out-of-pocket cost to families. Students in need of additional care – including case management – are referred to further treatment.

“We owe it to our children to provide them the best opportunity to succeed,” said Interim Baltimore City Health Commissioner Mary Beth Haller. “This important initiative breaks down barriers by providing every public elementary and middle school child with the opportunity for free eye screenings, exams and glasses—at school, without scheduling challenges for their parents or caregivers.”

Since its inception two years ago, the program has served 103 schools across the school district. More than 45,000 students were screened, and more than 6,000 students received eye exams.

Today, the 5000th pair of glasses was given to a student at Commodore John Rodgers School.

“Glasses can make a huge difference for students – I know they did for me,” said City Schools CEO Sonja Brookins Santelises. “Thank you to all of our wonderful partners on reaching this milestone. Together, we’ve helped 5,000 young people in Baltimore do better in school and lead healthier lives, and I look forward to helping many more.”

Since 2012, nonprofit partner Vision To Learn has provided children with eye exams and glasses, all free of charge, in communities throughout California, Delaware, Hawaii and Iowa. The project in Baltimore is Vision To Learn's largest operation on the East Coast.

"Vision To Learn is proud to provide free eye exams and glasses to students in need in over 300 cities in 13 states,” said Ann Hollister, President, Vision to Learn. “Vision To Learn has brought national funding and worked with local partners like the Baltimore City Health Department, Baltimore City Public Schools, Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, and Warby Parker, to build a high-quality program in Baltimore, helping thousands of students succeed in school and in life." 

A Johns Hopkins University research team, led by Dr. Robert Slavin from the School of Education and Dr. Megan Collins, Dr. David Friedman and Dr. Michael Repka from the Wilmer Eye Institute, is evaluating the program and study its impact on academic performance. The researchers hypothesize that the services provided through the program will improve academic performance for many students.

“For Johns Hopkins, this partnership reflects our deep commitment to harnessing our research and resources to directly improve the lives of our neighbors here in Baltimore. The Vision for Baltimore program embodies the kind of collaborative effort that is possible in this city to fix a seemingly intractable, systemic problem,” said President Ronald J. Daniels. “Together with civic leaders, philanthropies, our researchers, and Hopkins alumni-founded Warby Parker, we are able to help students see and expand their educational opportunities. We are delighted to play a part in forging this Baltimore success story, one pair of glasses, one student at a time.”

The initial years of Vision for Baltimore are funded thanks to support from the Abell Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Hackerman Family, the Aaron and Lillie Straus Foundation, Congressman John K. Delaney, April McClain-Delaney and the Capital Source Foundation, and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. Glasses for the program are donated by Warby Parker.

"This new milestone means that even more schoolchildren in Baltimore now have the glasses they need to excel in school. While vision impairment remains the most prevalent disabling condition among children in the United States, we are optimistic about the future because of the hard work and success of the Vision for Baltimore program," said Warby Parker co-Founder and co-CEO Dave Gilboa. 

As a special thank you to Baltimore City educators, Warby Parker will be hosting a thank you event at the Warby Parker store from 3-9 p.m. with a 20% discount and happy hour from 5-7pm on Monday, December 10.

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