Lee Ware, Virginia Delegate
“Having spent three decades teaching History and Government to young people, naturally the wellbeing of our children in school is of immense importance to me. How well children can read can determine the quality of their learning, and poor vision is by definition an impediment to reading. Consequently, I admire—and support—Conexus in its mission to expand vision-testing for school pupils.”
When 5-year-old Preston went to school one day, there was a lady there to check his eyes. It was important, his teacher told him, because he needed to be able to see well to read and learn.
Preston was a little nervous, but the lady showed him the box that she would be using to screen his vision. It looked a little bit like the pad he used to play games and watch cartoons. All he had to do was stand still for a few seconds while she looked at him through that box. It was over before he knew it!
This quick and easy screening, called VisioCheck and conducted by Conexus, determined that Preston had astigmatism. Astigmatism can cause blurred vision, which can impact reading and many other activities.
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Celebrating our 100,000th student served through our technology based children’s vision screening program is a significant milestone and we have many people to thank for this achievement. However, there are a handful of pivotal moments that really created turning points and opportunities to reach these heights and on this path to 100,000 a key investment from longtime supporters Horst and Gloria Arfert is one of those moments.
In 2015 Conexus established a scholarship fund to help defray costs and support VisioCheck programming to some of the more underprivileged Virginia communities. Horst and Gloria made the first sizable donation to this fund which allowed us to reach 22 diverse school divisions and 30,000 students across the Commonwealth.
This was the first large scale “statewide” VisioCheck delivery. This gave Conexus the opportunity to collect extensive data, identifying trends and service needs across Virginia. Successful programming at this level helped Conexus to be successful in the 2017 General Assembly, making changes to the VA Code to support improved children’s school based vision screening, and encouraged the development of a study with VCU to recommend VisioCheck as best-practice programming.
The scholarship fund is fully expended each school year to reach the maximum number of students possible. We are making great progress through the investments of those who believe that no child should unsuccessful in school simply because they need a pair of glasses. We hope you will be as inspired as we’ve been through people like Horst and Gloria, to make a difference. Become a member of our 2020 monthly giving Club. $20/month will provide Visiocheck programs to 2 full classrooms of students, finding more than 9 who need vision correction.
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As we march on to our 100,000th student served we’re taking a look back at some of the most pivotal moments in expanding technology based comprehensive children’s vision programs in Virginia. As Conexus was experiencing tremendous success in the Pre-K W.H.E.E.L.S program, our thoughts quickly turned to our partners in the public schools.
Conexus had long supported the vision screening needs in Virginia’s public schools and the idea of introducing technology to improve the process was exciting. In 2012 the Cameron and John Randolph Foundations jointly funded the first pilot initiative to test the Conexus technology based comprehensive children’s vision program in the public schools. Over the period of 45 days Conexus delivered the program to over 4,500 students in 20 schools in 6 school divisions across the tri-cities region, finding 27% of students with a potential vision problem. The program delivery was followed by a focus group of nurse participants for program evaluation and critique.
We learned two important lessons through this pilot: 1. Technology based comprehensive children’s vision programming could be successful in the public school population and 2. It would have a tremendous impact on effectiveness and efficiencies for schools and students.
We want to offer our thanks to both the Cameron and John Randolph Foundation for seeing the potential of using our experience gained from the W.H.E.E.L.S. program to grow and expand services to an even larger population. Virginia mandates the school based vision screening of more than 360,000 students annually. Cameron and John Randolph recognized the potential for not only their students but also saw the value in supporting the development of a program that could have statewide ramifications.
This pilot effectively launched Conexus programming into the public schools statewide and we are grateful for the vision of these two funders.
The results are in on the first school to be fully serviced through Richmond Mobile, a collaborative effort between Conexus and California-based Vision To Learn. Services to this school not only confirmed the tremendous need for vision services in Richmond, but also demonstrated the value of this collaborative partnership!
Conexus programming identified 126 students in need of follow-up vision care (32% of enrolled students). Redd staff immediately went to work to encourage participation in the mobile clinic and were able to secure 104 (83%) returned parental permission slips! For two and a half days the Vision To Learn team delivered 104 onsite eye exams and prescribed 97 (93%) pair of glasses.
The success rate of this launch school has been overwhelming! Through the efficiencies and effectiveness of VisioCheck, more of the “right” students were identified for the services of the mobile clinic. The visiting Vision To Learn optometrist from Detroit said on the first day, “not only did we see 34 students, we prescribed 34 pairs of glasses - that NEVER happens!” One of Vision To Learn’s most difficult challenges in their service delivery across the country is getting the right kids to the clinic and that all starts with the screening — a process that is normally handled through the services of the host community. “The first thing I did when I got finished today was call my boss to tell him, ‘we need this!’”, said Dr. Megan, VTL optometrist.
Conexus purposefully and meticulously designed the VisioCheck program with some of the most common challenges of school based vision screenings in mind and watching VisioCheck operate so effectively in conjunction with a mobile clinic has been very rewarding. We are excited to be a part of such a dynamic partnership and one with such potential for growth and service!
Conexus received a $25,000 award from the Community Foundation in support of VisioCheck delivery for the Richmond Mobile project. Richmond Mobile, a cornerstone project of the Kids 20/20 Campaign, will bring direct services to students in Richmond Public Schools while collecting data to support further project expansion. The Community Foundation is well known in the Richmond region for their commitment to improving communities, and Conexus is honored to have been recognized as an organization with the capacity to affect change.
Last week, Conexus technicians delivered VisioCheck to the 389 students at Redd Elementary in Richmond. The technology based, comprehensive vision program identified 126 students (32%) with potential vision problems, which is well above the 25% national average. Every child will be sent home with their individualized screening report this week. The simplistic yet informative report is designed to communicate screening results with parents and encourage compliance with the recommended follow-up.
The Richmond Mobile Project is one of the cornerstone projects of the Kids 20/20 Campaign and is a collaboration with Los Angeles-based Vision to Learn (VTL). Vision to Learn will bring its full service mobile clinic to Richmond Public Schools to offer onsite eye exams-and glasses if needed-to the students found to have a potential vision problem through the Conexus VisioCheck program. The Conexus screening reports for referred students have been modified for this collaboration to double as a permission form for the on-site eye exams. Conexus and VTL hope that streamlined parental communications and school support through the collaborative partnership will result in a high parental response on program permissions and utilization of the onsite clinic.
The VTL mobile clinic will be visiting Redd Elementary in early October to provide eye exams to referred students, and those who need glasses will get to pick out their frames the same day! Glasses are then sent to the lab for processing and will be returned to students at an assembly on October 26th, which will be the official division-wide launch of the program. This process will continue through the 2018/2019 school year, eventually providing VisioCheck programs to over 26,000 students and exams and glasses to as many as 6,500!
The Robins Foundation has awarded $50,000 in total to Conexus to support the Richmond Mobile project. The Robins Foundation award will specifically be used to provide VisioCheck programming to over 15,000 Richmond school children throughout the 2017/2018 school year. VisioCheck delivery is step one in a two-step program to improve vision and educational outcomes for RPS students.
Students identified through the VisioCheck program as having a potential vision problem will be offered free onsite eye exams and glasses, if needed, through a mobile clinic operated by Vision To Learn, a national non-profit. The collaborative effort between Conexus and Vision To Learn is designed to eliminate untreated poor vision as a barrier to academic success.
Robins Foundation is a strong proponent of K-12 education in the Richmond region and Conexus is proud to have their support.
Danville Public Schools, Chalk Talk, features the collaboration between Danville Lions and Conexus to help improve vision and educational outcomes for Danville students.