About 25% of children in the U.S. have vision problems that hinder learning. Christine Pettys was witnessing this firsthand.
Volunteering for See to Succeed this spring, the San Jacinto College eye care technology student had rotated to the refraction station, where a middle school student was sitting behind the mask-like phoropter.
The optometrist shuffled through lenses to reach the right settings for both eyes, then asked the boy to name the letters. In one eye, he had 20/400 vision, seeing only 20 feet away what the average person could see at 400. Now, correct lenses over both eyes, he gasped. Excitement building, he repeated each letter one by one.
"He didn't know what it was like to see clearly," Pettys said. "The way he read the letters across the room when a prescription was added in front of his eyes made me want to cry."
For this student and almost 1,300 others from Pasadena ISD, See to Succeed provided a critical tool for classroom success: correct vision and healthy eyes.
Continuing the vision
The College's eye care technology program has coordinated See to Succeed for more than a decade at the Central Campus. Cancelled in 2021, the event almost got cancelled this spring too because of social distancing concerns.
At the last minute, the City of Pasadena stepped in, providing Campbell Hall at the Pasadena Convention Center.
"When we reached out to the city regarding the need for a large venue, Mayor Jeff Wagner did not hesitate to rescue this year's See to Succeed mission," said Debra Clarke, San Jac eye care technology program director. "Pasadena ISD children received the urgent eye care they needed because of his quick actions."
Throughout the week, Pasadena ISD bussed students to Campbell Hall. San Jac students spaced throughout the facility, screening children with stereo fly depth-perception, convergence, near visual acuity, and Ishihara color tests. After the exams, children who received prescriptions got to choose frames.
See to Succeed covers the cost of frames, lenses, and emergency medical care for all participating children.
Changing the statistics
Kids Vision for Life estimates 90% of U.S. children who need glasses do not have them. Without good vision, these students face higher chances of dropping out of school, getting low-paid jobs, and even turning to crime.
Despite 20,000 Houston-area K-12 students having vision issues, many continue attending school without the issues resolved.
San Jac partners with Alcon, Berkeley Eye Center, Essilor Vision Foundation, Eye Care for Kids Foundation, Houston Health Department, Prevent Blindness Texas, University of Houston College of Optometry, and Walmart to change that. Through See to Succeed, children receive the eye care they need to succeed in school and life.
"Twenty thousand is a large number of children needing help too large for any one entity, but together we can do great things," Clarke said. "Our partners all bring incredibly valuable skills to the mission."
Pettys attended San Jac off and on several years before laser-focusing on eye care technology. Coming into See to Succeed, she looked forward to helping change students' lives and perspectives.
"I'm the one who left with that in spades," she said.
Case in point: the middle school student with 20/400 vision in one eye. Not only was he adjusting to a new school, but he was embarrassed he couldn't read with that eye. After reassuring him, Pettys encouraged him to think about the color frames he wanted. Later, she helped him pick them out. He left grinning.
"I realized this was not just helping the kids see but giving them a whole new level of confidence, pride, and excitement to go out into the world and be who they were capable of being," she said.
Learn more about the eye care technology program at sanjac.edu/programs/areas-of-study/health/eye-care-tech/.
See to Succeed by the Numbers