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Published Jan. 13, 2023
Bright, colorful murals of smiling children in glasses in hues of orange, blue, yellow, purple, and white cover the Alcon Children’s Vision Center. The words “my eyes are ready to learn” welcome families to the site, located in the Western Hills Family Resource Center on Mojave Trail between Fort Worth ISD’s Western Hills primary and elementary schools.
This week, FWISD and the Alcon Foundation celebrated the Alcon Children’s Vision Center's grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours. Eligible FWISD students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade will have access to free comprehensive eye exams, prescription glasses, and follow-up visits at the clinic.
“The new Alcon [Children’s Vision] Center takes our collaboration to the next level. It’s something I didn’t know we could ever make possible … it’s a one-of-a-kind in Texas public education,” said Michael Steinert, FWISD assistant superintendent of Student Support Services. “There is no other ISD in the state of Texas that has a vision center within its facility, so we’re breaking new ground here.”
The Alcon Foundation has provided FWISD elementary students in Title I schools with optometry services for more than a decade. Over the last two years, the Alcon Foundation has provided more than 100,000 vision screenings, nearly 7,800 eye exams, and over 6,500 pairs of free glasses to Fort Worth ISD students. The vision center’s opening in a once standard portable building expands services to FWISD secondary students.
“When you consider that 80% of what a child learns is visual in nature, good vision is essential to a child’s success in school and beyond. Yet 1-in-4 children have a vision disorder, and for many, access to care is out of reach,” said Dr. Rick Weisbarth, vice president of professional affairs- US Vision Care for Alcon. “Alcon wants to address this gap. Today marks the beginning of a new chapter for students in the Fort Worth ISD.”
Staff at the Alcon Children’s Vision Center started seeing students for visits last fall.
Andrea Johnson, principal of FWISD’s Western Hills primary and elementary schools, said “it means the world” to the Western Hills community to share a campus with the new clinic. Since opening, multiple students from the two schools have been seen by clinic staffers, and some students with broken glasses have taken advantage of services to have their eyewear repaired, she said.
“Access to this care is ... critical to [students’] learning process,” Ms. Johnson said. “A lot of our kids don’t have access to good health care and vision care, so having it right here in our community, in a place they can access, has been a game-changer.”
This week, two Western Hills Elementary students joined Ms. Johnson for the clinic’s ribbon cutting. They brought a large collage of eyes drawn by Western Hills fourth and fifth graders expressing thanks to the Alcon Foundation.
Third grader Camorri Ganaway said it means a lot that the clinic is here.
“If [students are] blind, they have some people that actually care about them and will give them the attention that they need,” she said.
Just as inviting as the building’s exterior is the warm and bright waiting room with smiling staff and a wide array of children’s books. Colors of the rainbow fill the clinic’s rooms utilized for comprehensive eye examinations and for children to select a brand-new pair of eye frames.
Anne Darr, District 6 FWISD Board of Education trustee, said the clinic offers students and their families a space where they are taken care of and valued. Ms. Darr hopes to see similar clinics one day open in the north, south and east areas of the District.
“It’s visually appealing, no pun intended or actually a pun intended,” she said with a smile. “I love that not only did the imagineers who put this all together create something really good on the inside, but they also made it beautiful on the outside. And it’s not just a portable building on the outside, it is a building covered with smiling children’s faces, and that is a big deal.”
The Alcon Vision Clinic, located at 8376 Mojave Trail, is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday. Typically, students will be referred to the clinic by FWISD school nurses for services. However, families can text 682-628-2531 to make an appointment. For additional information, visit alconcvc.org.