Last week, Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez thanked a stellar community partner for Community Health Academy of the Heights: Dr. Charles Gold and Broadway Vision Center.
“If it wasn’t for my school, and for Dr. Gold, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to get glasses, and wouldn’t have the ability to see in class. Today, with my glasses, I can focus in class, and do well with my schoolwork.” says a 12th grade student at Community Health Academy of the Heights.
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez visited Broadway Vision Center, an optometry clinic in Washington Heights, to honor its optometrist Dr. Charles Gold and clinic staff for providing free exams and glasses to 6th – 12th grade students at Community Health Academy of the Heights (CHAH), a public United Federation of Teachers Community Learning School, founded by local CBO Community League of the Heights (CLOTH). The clinic has thus far provided over 130 pairs of glasses to students in the 2017-2018 schoolyear alone. With these glasses, students can see the board, walk through the halls, and engage in athletics with clarity, advancing not only their comfort, but their academic achievement as well.
Students’ vision needs were identified as a first-in-line priority when CHAH became a UFT Community Learning School in 2012. The community school strategy is intended to align partnerships and resources that mitigate students’ barriers to learning. CHAH teachers made it clear to the new Community School Director, Erin Verrier, that students’ lack of glasses was a clear barrier to learning and achievement. Starting in 2013, Erin embarked on addressing student vision, utilizing such partners as Helen Keller International and Warby Parker to get free glasses to students. But it was not until partnering with Broadway Vision Center that a sustainable partnership could be cultivated.
At the beginning of the 2017 school year, by screening 591 of the students, it became clear that the school was facing a 48% screening failure rate, significantly higher than the expected 25% - 35%. Based on this data, the Community School Director distributed paperwork for students and families to complete, and coordinated 10-20 students at a time walking to Broadway Vision Center, only 12 blocks north from the school, for thorough eye exams and selection of frames. The clinic guarantees that students can adjust or replace their glasses if needed.
How could such a partnership be developed? Dr. Charles Gold expresses his deep appreciation for being able to give back to his clinic’s community. “Broadway Vision Center has been in Washington Heights for 30 years, and being an integral part of this community is so important,” he says, “The more I have worked with kids, the more I have learned how important an eye exam is – how can you go to school if you can’t see the board? The quickest way to help our youth is to get them glasses.” It is from this commitment to community support that Dr. Gold deserved his thanks from Ydanis Rodriguez. Community Health Academy of the Heights looks forward to continuing this partnership in years to come, getting students free glasses, and thus supporting their ability to thrive in the classroom.