One of my roles as a school-based Health Educator at Erie Family Health Center is to coordinate the free mobile vision van service that comes to Clemente High School and checks students to determine if they are eligible for glasses. If a student is eligible, a free pair is delivered to the school where I distribute them to the student.
Coordinating the mobile vision van has been one of the more challenging and rewarding tasks of my AmeriCorps service year. While students, teachers, and parents all love the service, it was difficult getting students to turn in consent forms with parent signatures. The vision service won’t come until a minimum of 25 consent forms have been received, and getting the consent forms back after giving the forms out took some effort. I tabled at many report card pick-up days, beckoning parents over to my table to the forms; I communicated with Clemente administrative staff, e-mailed teachers, and handed out consent forms during school lunch periods. After doing all I could think of to promote the service, it became a waiting game.
Waiting for something beyond my control was probably the hardest part, but on the days the van came, I was always reminded of how important this service is. I have coordinated a total of three vision vans visits that have seen over 75 students. Of the 75 students, 71 received a free pair of glasses after the eye exam. Many of these students have never had an eye exam before and wouldn’t have if the van didn’t come.
One student in particular stood out to me. The last vision van I coordinated was a busy day. Double the amount of students that were seen for the previous two vans had signed up and Clemente staff members who wanted to be more involved had sent even more students down that didn’t have signed consent forms. It was a chaotic day with a lot of running around and redirecting. One student though, who had come to the clinic several times to ask when the van was coming (it took a couple months to receive all the needed consent forms and find a good date to schedule with the service), was finally called down and seen by the vision specialists. After he left, a specialist approached me and said that the student, who was 17, had never had glasses before but was very nearly legally blind. The specialist was shocked that he had lived every day trying to do his schoolwork or read the whiteboard in classrooms with the vision he had.
Knowing this student would finally be able to see clearly gave me a great sense of pride and happiness. If National Health Corps Health Educators didn’t provide this service, some of these students would go their whole adolescence without being able to see properly.
This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2017-18 member Amanda Robinson.
Amanda is a Health Educator with Erie Family Health Centers - Clemente and Teen Center.