United Way, Doctors Provide Eye Exams to Students

By Dan Hiner
YOUNGSTOWN – Students and equipment packed the gym at Volney Rogers Elementary School on Wednesday. It wasn’t for class; instead, students across Youngstown City Schools received eye exams.

The program, now in its fourth year, brings eye care specialists together to perform exams on students and fit them for glasses.

Over the course of the week, an estimated 544 students from Liberty Local School’s Blott Guy Pre-Kindergarten-6th grade and Youngstown will be seen. If needed, each student received two pairs of glasses – one for home and one for school.

“Often when our scholars bring things home, as anywhere, they often don’t bring things back,” Youngstown City Schools CEO Justin Jennings said. “They get to keep a pair here. That means they always have access to it, so there’s no barrier in their learning.”

EyeQuest, a product of DentaQuest, partnered with the United Way of Youngstown for the event. Volunteers, 12 eye doctors and their staffs and members of the Youngstown State Nursing program are available for the students.

“If you can’t see, it’s going to be hard to pick up reading and writing and those different things,” Jennings said.

Dr. Sergul Erzurum is the co-founder and president for Sight for All United and an ophthalmologist for Eye Care Associates. Erzurum said it’s important to understand the difference between a screening and an exam.

Erzurum said screenings are used to identify potential vision and depth perception problems. After the student fails, the parents are notified to receive an exam.

Dr. Ryan Maceyko of Eye Catchers Optical examines a student during the Gift of Sight event at Volney Rogers Elementary.

“There was a study done that says that 50% of children that fail a school screening never get to an eye doctor,” Erzurum said. “So what we’re doing is providing free eye exams for students that failed their screenings from the ages of kindergarten through fifth grade.”

Erzurum said the age range is important because it “is prime for permanent loss of vision,” including from lazy eye, crossing eyes or drifting eyes.

EyeQuest, based in Wisconsin, also presented the United Way with a check for $10,000 to help cover the costs, including the glasses, doctors and equipment.

“This isn’t cheap to bring this stuff in,” Roxann Sebest, director of marketing for the United Way of Youngstown, said. “We’re actually setting up exam rooms in gymnasiums. So it definitely helps that cost and it’s not a cost to the students and it’s not a cost to the families.”

Mandy Gilbertson, manager of Vision Network for EyeQuest, works with organizations across the country to help with eye care events. She said the donation was a way to give back to the community and support an organization that is making a positive impact.

“It’s definitely something that isn’t always noticeable, especially in young kids,” Gilbertson said. “They may be struggling to see the board, and you just think they’re non-compliant in the classroom. Or they’re acting out because they can’t read the book or they can’t see the letters.”

The eye exams, however, are just the tip of the iceberg. Erzurum said the doctors try to move the program earlier on the calendar every year. This year they also plan to diagnose medical problems early in the evaluations so the children can receive treatment.

“What we’d like to do is get care to these kids so they can have two really good seeing eyes on the ones who are having some deficits,” Erzurum said. 

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.