Looking to the future

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Vision to Learn was in West Liberty Nov. 27-28. The growing nonprofit organization provided eye exams and handed out free glasses to local students.

“There are so many children out there that need glasses but don’t know they have a vision problem,” says WL School Nurse Julie Yoerger, BSN, RN.

“We’re also going to catch children who’s parents can’t afford glasses,” she adds. “They receive a free comprehensive eye exam and two pairs of glasses.”

Vision to Learn brings a mobile clinic to low-income schools, where it provides comprehensive eye exams to students recommended by the school.

Students can end up receiving two pairs of glasses, one pair for home and one pair for school. Students also get referred to eye doctors for future care.

West Liberty Nurses Julie Yoerger and Angela Swick are busy screening all 1,400 students at every grade level in West Liberty.

Together they refer the students they believe need further examination. In the elementary school Yoerger referred 160 students, 95 of which were screened.

Vision to Learn will be back to cover the remaining students as well as the rest of the school district. It’s a big project, but the hope it to complete WLCSD entirely by the end of the year.

“We have a lot of kids in this school district that should have glasses but don’t,” says Yoerger. “They’re broken or lost, it’s so important for these kids to have glasses while they’re learning.”

While they’re working on screening the whole school this year, the plan is to scale it back but continue the partnership with Vision to Learn in the years to come.

A big reason the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization has come to West Liberty is Trey and Dina Sucher. Trey is known for having established the Trey Sucher Law Firm here in West Liberty.

The couple were looking for a community project when they thought of their own children, Will and Evelyn Sucher. Both suffer from vision issues.

Trey fully understands what it’s like to get good eye care, he wanted that for the kids of the West Liberty Community School District as well.

“I know the care is available, just not everybody has access to it primarily due to economic reasons,” he says.

While searching online he ran into Corrine Kroger, Regional Director of Vision to Learn. Slowly they worked out the details, meanwhile Nurse Julie Yoerger got on board.

Vision to Learn only establishes relationships with schools where more than half of the student population qualifies for ‘Free or Reduced Lunch.’

“There’s a lot of communities in Iowa that would not qualify to partner with Vision to Learn, but West Liberty does, so they’re here to help,” says Sucher.

Since 2012 the organization has facilitated 430,000 screenings, provided more than 86,000 eyes exams and provided more than 65,000 glasses.

Vision to Learn started in California. It’s also active in Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey and Iowa.

It came to Iowa in 2016 through Dubuque and Jackson Counties. Only recently in 2017 has it expanded to Waterloo, West Liberty, Des Moines and Clinton County.

Up until last year Nurse Yoerger screened kids every year in 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th grade. However, the school recently hired additional help in Nurse Angela Swick.

Together they are able to screen more students, including those at the high school.

“The problem was that some students would fall between the cracks, a child might not even know they can’t see,” said Yoerger “They might think it’s normal, even though it’s a little blurry.”

“That’s why I’m excited to have the high school kids involved as well, some of them don’t even realize they can’t see and that effects their learning,” she adds.

Being able to tackle the entire school district is a big deal. The two nurses have put in several months of additional work, but it’s been worth it.

“We were planning to start with just the elementary school,” said Trey Sucher. “But when we found out we were able to meet the requirements for the entire district we said let’s do it.”

It took around $13,000 to get off the ground. But, many organizations stepped up to help including All American Concrete, MidWest One Bank, Trey Sucher Law and Vision to Learn.

They also received a $1,000 grant from the the West Liberty Community Fund, held by the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine.

“And the hopes are, if families can’t afford an eye doctor Vision to Learn will come back,” says Yoerger.
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