The Ashtabula Area City School (AACS) District has a great new initiative with the goal of “providing services and programs to students, families and the community (stakeholders) so that they can be successful in school and in life.” The Strong Foundations, Successful Futures Advisory Group (a collaborative led by Ashtabula County Community Action) is working to ensure that all children have the chance to come to school ready-to-learn. This includes providing support services to remove barriers that prevent children/families from being successful. Through our community engagement project we have identified that obtaining health services is often an issue. When stakeholders were surveyed about health services they wanted to be offered within the school, “Having Their Eyes Checked” and “Getting Glasses” rated among the highest in the results. School data also showed that vision services were frequently one of the health services which students/families may be unable to follow-through on.

To ensure that students obtain the needed services and have their vision issues corrected, the Dragon Empowerment Center (DEC-Community Learning & Resource Center) is exploring ways to provide professional vision appointments and the purchase of glasses for students of the Ashtabula Area City School. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, as well as the Wells Fargo Advisors-Ashtabula, the project has been fortunate to receive donations to specifically fund a Vision Services pilot project. The monies are used to assist students and their families cover the costs to get a vision examination and purchase a pair of glasses.

Working together with the Ashtabula Walmart Vision Center, DEC was able to provide our first student with new glasses, second grader Kaylyn! Kaylyn was ecstatic, “At first my friends didn’t recognize me, and I would take my glasses off for a second so they knew who I was. I really like them, and now I can see the board better.” Her father was pleased with the entire process and said, “Kaylyn wears her glasses all the time. She only takes them off when she’s sleeping!”

According to the American Optometric Association, “As children progress in school, they face increasing demands on their visual abilities… When certain visual skills have not developed, or are poorly developed, learning is difficult and stressful, and children will typically: Avoid reading and other near visual work as much as possible; Attempt to do the work anyway, but with a lowered level of comprehension or efficiency…” Through this project the DEC seeks to address the needs of students having vision deficits that interfere with learning. DEC will be working to identify additional children who could benefit from the vision assistance pilot program. As we move forward, we hope to establish onsite vision services at the DEC.

The DEC provides a vision for “a system to provide supports and remove barriers to successful futures,” and, vision services so students “see” success in the classroom today and beyond. For more information about the Vision Services pilot, or the Strong Foundations, Successful Futures-Community Learning & Resource Center, contact communityaction@accaa.org or follow us on Facebook @foundationsfutures.

The Strong Foundations, Successful Futures Advisory Group includes Ashtabula County Community Action Agency, Ashtabula Area City Schools, Community Counseling Center (Ashtabula County) and LEADERship Ashtabula County. The project is funded in part by Ashtabula Foundation, Ohio CDC & CareSource Foundation, Ohio Development Services Agency, LEADERship Ashtabula County.

Submitted article.