Seven-year-old Carlos Urrutia has struggled for years to see the front board in his classroom, which always seems to be blurry. But recently, he stepped into the Vision to Learn mobile clinic to get fitted for a new pair of glasses.
“I’m excited because I’ll be able to see with glasses,” Carlos said. “Right now it looks blurry, I can’t see far away.”
In about three weeks, his new pair of glasses will be delivered to him at school.
“When I get my glasses I’m going to see my ABC’s good,” said Carlos, a 2nd grader at 52nd Street Elementary school.
Founded by former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor, Austin Beutner, Vision to Learn brings trained doctors and state-of-the-art mobile eye clinics to elementary schools throughout low-income communities in Los Angeles and provides students with free eye exams and glasses. Since the program began in March 2012, the mobile clinics have provided free glasses to more than 14,500 students and have visited 108 Los Angeles Unified School District, charter and catholic schools an average of 25 times each month.
Samuel Sanchez, also a second grader, has trouble with assignments in the classroom because he can’t see well.
“When my teacher writes words on the board, I can’t see them and I write the wrong letters,” Samuel said.
Samuel is excited about his new pair of glasses but he is a little worried he might break or lose them.
“I’m a little nervous that I’ll drop my glasses,” said Samuel. “I’m going to protect them and keep them away from my 2-year-old sister, she breaks everything.”[raw]According to Vision to Learn, nearly one-quarter-million young children across California do not have the glasses they need to read their books, see the chalkboard, or participate in class. According to a study by the UCLA Schools of Medicine and Public Health, more than 20 percent of elementary school students in low-income communities have a vision problem and 96 percent of those students who need glasses do not have them.
The Vision to Learn program has changed the lives of many children, but also the doctors who drive around in the mobile eye clinic.
Ramon Vega, an optician with Vision to Learn has been with the program since it began last year.
Monday through Friday he leaves his home in Cudahay at 6:15 a.m. to meet fellow optician Sherry Pastor to pick up the mobile eye clinic from an LAUSD school bus parking lot in downtown Los Angeles and drives to the scheduled school for the day.
“I love my job and I love what I do,” said Vega, whose most cherished memory of his job is having children hug him to say thank you for the glasses. “I fulfill my purpose and serve my community.”
Pastor recalls distributing glasses this time last year at Rose Hills Academy Elementary in Lincoln Heights when she noticed a magnifying glass attached to a fourth graders backpack.
“I asked what it was for and the little girl said that it was to read and do her homework,” Pastor said. “I put the glass on her and she covered both hands with her mouth. She was shocked. I drove home and cried.”
After being examined, first grader, Heber Romero, 6, chose a pair of red glasses.
“I’m going to wear my glasses all day –when I do my homework, at lunch and in class,” Heber said.
Similarly, once the black glasses were placed on 7-year-old, Michael Alexander’s face he didn’t want to take them off.
“I like these glasses,” Michael said. “Now I can see.”