During the 2017-2018 school year, our United Way partnered with several key community organizations to conduct vision screenings on 2,000 students in the Youngstown City School District as well as Youngstown Community School. Students who did not pass this screening were seen by optometrists right in their school building. Ultimately, our collaboration provided 300 pairs of glasses to students in need.
And in the Youngstown City School District, the students experienced great results!
Students who received glasses
Had a 2.5% higher average attendance rate
Had a 41% lower discipline referral rate
Had a 7% higher pass rate for State English Assessment and 6% higher for Math
Had a 6% higher pass rate for 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee
The collaboration included the Youngstown City School District, the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, the Essilor Vision Foundation, the Sight for All United Foundation, Classic Optical, Ageless Eyecare, the Youngstown City Health Department, Youngstown Lions Club, DentaQuest, Modern Optical International and the Mercy Health Foundation.
“United Way realizes change does not happen alone, and we must be united to make true impact,” said Bob Hannon, president of United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley. “This collaboration is proof of what working together can do for our families and the children. Basic medical care can be a burden on our families, and our job as United Way is to break down those barriers to a student's success in the classroom. We want to thank all the partners who worked hard to make this happen."
Marzell Belton is a quiet second grader at Youngstown Community School. Last school year, he found out he needed glasses thanks to a partnership created by the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley.
"The vision program was a wonderful help to myself and my family both financially and academically," said Rosa Bowers, Marzell's mom.
In 2015, the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley launched its Success After 6 initiative at the Youngstown Community School to help students like Marzell and his family. SA6 provides wrap-around services, including an after-school program. It brings together key community partners to break down the barriers to success - like not being able to see in the classroom.
So through SA6, United Way formed a partnership with local eye doctors (Sight for All United), eye glass providers (Classic Optical Laboratories and Essilor Vision Foundation), Goodwill Industries of Youngstown, the City of Youngstown, and the Youngstown City School District to conduct vision screenings, doctor exams, and eye glass fittings right in the schools.
When Marzell was ready to pick out his frames, he took his time looking through the options. Eventually, he put on a pair of blue frames. A volunteer asked Marzell, if these were the ones? The shy second grader confidently smiled, and shook his head YES.
"Marzell was so excited about his glasses!" said Rosa.
Marzell was one of 53 students to get two pairs of eye glasses, one for home and one for school, during the 2016/2017 school year.
This school year, United Way and the partners expanded the program to include all the elementary schools in the Youngstown City District.
Last month, 184 volunteers from local companies like Vallourec, students from the Youngstown State University Nursing Program, and members of area service groups like the Lions Club of Youngstown volunteered to screen 2,500 students.
"I knew what United Way did, but now I know why" said Adam, a vision screening volunteer who spent two weeks with United Way staff working with the students at the 9 different school sites.
It's expected about a third of the children screened will now need to see a doctor and possibly receive eye glasses. An option many of them may not have had without the United Way and its partners.