Vision To Learn Launches County of San Mateo-Wide Program
Effort Will Provide K-12 Students throughout the County with Free Vision Screenings, Eye Exams and Prescription Glasses
County of San Mateo, Sobrato Philanthropies, and Health Plan of San Mateo Provide Major Funding for Project
June 9, 2022: SANTA CLARA COUNTY – 65 students at Belle Haven Elementary School were delighted to try on their new prescription glasses for the first time on Thursday at an event in Menlo Park. Representatives from the County of San Mateo, the Health Plan of San Mateo, the Sobrato Family and Vision To Learn celebrated the launch of a County of San Mateo-wide program to provide school-based vision services to kids in underserved communities. Over the coming two school years, 3,000 kids will be helped by Vision To Learn, a nonprofit organization which provides the glasses children need to succeed in school and in life.
An estimated 3,000 children in the County of San Mateo go to school every day without the glasses they need to see the board, read a book, or participate in class. Through this program, students will be provided a vision screening, eye exam, and – if needed - a pair of prescription glasses, free of charge, by Vision To Learn.
Austin Beutner, Founder and Chairman of Vision To Learn said, “At a time when our country is struggling to figure out what a just and equitable future should look like, this effort provides a good start.” He added, “Our mission is to make sure every child has the glasses they need to succeed in school and in life.”
County Supervisor David Canepa, and County Executive Mike Callagy participated in Thursday’s event, helping students try on their new glasses.
“In the County of San Mateo, we know school-based health services are a powerful tool to get students the resources they need,” said Supervisor Canepa. “Vision To Learn provides access to vision care for thousands of students who would otherwise go without. The County was proud to step up to help establish this program for our kids.”
“The County of San Mateo is excited to partner with Vision To Learn,” said Mr. Callagy. "Helping students see clearly at school is a simple yet powerful intervention benefiting their health and education.”
The County of San Mateo provided $300,000 in Measure K funding to help launch the project, administered through the Health Plan of San Mateo. Additionally Vision To Learn has contracted as a Medi-Cal provider, giving the program long-term sustainability as it helps students in the region for years to come.
“The Health Plan of San Mateo is proud to help connect students in need to critical vision care by partnering with Vision To Learn. This intervention will provide thousands of students with the glasses they need to see clearly at school and build a bridge to a lifetime of quality optometric care,” said Patrick Curran, CEO of the Health Plan of San Mateo.
Major funding for the project was provided by Sobrato Philanthropies. Representatives from the family participated at Thursday’s event.
"No child should go without the tools they need to succeed in school, and for one in four kids, that includes a pair of prescription eyeglasses," said John Sobrato, founder and Board Chair Emeritus of the Sobrato Organization. “This project will help thousands of kids right in our backyard see the world in a new way.”
About one in four children, whether from a family with means or a family struggling to get by, will naturally need glasses. Children who need glasses and don’t have them are more likely to be misdiagnosed with behavioral issues in kindergarten, be considered “slow” learners by 5th grade, and to drop out of high school. Unfortunately, in low-income urban and rural communities, most children who need glasses don’t have them due to financial constraints, language barriers, unresponsive health bureaucracies or the simple fact there are no eye care professionals in their neighborhood. This program solves the problem by bringing the glasses to the kids where they are almost every day—their local neighborhood school.
Here’s how it works: Vision To Learn visits schools, where their staff teams up with school nurses to make sure every child receives a vision screening. For children who don’t pass the screening, Vision To Learn vans, staffed with trained eye care professionals, visit schools to provide eye exams and glasses. All free of charge to the child and their family.
Founded in 2012, Vision To Learn has screened over 1.8 million children, and provided over 375,000 eye exams and 300,000 glasses nationwide to students in 14 states and the District of Columbia.
A groundbreaking study published in The Journal for the American Medical Association Ophthalmology by researchers from the Center for Research and Reform in Education and the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University shows the impact of providing glasses to children at schools. The researchers conducted the largest and most rigorous study in the U.S. to measure the impact of providing eyeglasses to students directly in their schools. Thousands of children from more than 100 schools in Baltimore participated in the study. Guess what? The children who received glasses did better in school and the impacts were greater than more costly measures such as lengthening the school day, providing computers, or creating charter schools. The children who showed the biggest gains, the equivalent of an additional four to six months of learning, are those who are often the hardest to help—students in the bottom quarter of their class academically and students with learning differences and disabilities.
JHU study senior author Dr. Megan Collins, pediatric ophthalmologist from the Wilmer Eye Institute said, “The Hopkins research study demonstrates how school-based vision care improves vision and learning for students in need. School-based vision care is a simple, yet effective way to help children see more clearly and achieve more academically.”
Belle Haven Elementary School is among the first schools to be visited by the County-wide program. 386 students received vision screenings at the school, 92 were provided with eye exams, and 65 students were provided with glasses.
“Ravenswood City School District is thrilled to partner with Vision To Learn,” said Superintendent Gina Sudaria. “Our kids can’t wait to get their new glasses!”
About Vision To Learn
Vision To Learn, a non-profit charity, was founded in 2012 by the Beutner Family Foundation. The program has helped kids in over 500 underserved communities in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Vision To Learn serves the needs of the hardest-to-reach children; about 90% of kids served by Vision To Learn live in poverty and about 85% are kids of color. Since its founding, Vision To Learn has helped provide more than 1.8 million children with vision screenings, over 375,000 with eye exams and 300,000 with glasses – all free of charge to children and their families. Next year another 100,000 children will receive glasses from Vision To Learn. For more information on Vision To Learn, please visit www.visiontolearn.org.
Health Plan of San Mateo (HPSM) is a local, non-profit County Organized Health System (COHS) founded in 1987. HPSM’s mission is to ensure that San Mateo County’s vulnerable and underserved residents have access to high-quality care, services and supports so they can live the healthiest lives possible. With more than 140,000 members or participants, HPSM serves all of the County’s Medi-Cal eligible residents, nearly 9,000 members eligible for both Medicare and Medi-Cal, as well as families, seniors, people with disabilities and children with complex medical conditions. HPSM also sponsors special programs that address the complex social issues that some eligible members face – from home-based health care to affordable housing for the homeless. Learn more at www.hpsm.org.
About Sobrato Philanthropies
Sobrato Philanthropies creates social change by partnering with communities to build a world that is more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable. Guided by the business philosophy and personal values of the Sobrato family, three generations engage in grantmaking, advocacy, impact investing, and collaborative efforts designed to create impact in the communities they serve. Sobrato Philanthropies is part of The Sobrato Organization, a multi-generational, family-owned firm that has played a dynamic role in the emergence and growth of Silicon Valley for nearly 70 years. Sobrato Philanthropies leverages the combined power of multiple giving vehicles, including the Sobrato Family Foundation, which has focused on building opportunity in Silicon Valley since 1996 and more recently nationally and globally. The Sobrato family is committed to making a difference in all the foundation’s programs through business and philanthropic leadership.