Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque Partners with Vision to Learn to Improve Kids Vision

The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque recently partnered with the nonprofit Vision to Learn to provide free eye exams and glasses to 178 kids at eight elementary schools in low-income communities in Iowa. The project was made possible by grants and donations from Vision to Learn and Theisen’s Home-Farm-Auto, with additional support from the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque and the Community Foundation of Jackson County.

As many as 20,000 students in Iowa lack the glasses they need to see the whiteboard, read a book and participate in class. Since 2012, Vision to Learn has addressed this problem by giving children access to vision care through the Vision to Learn van, a mobile clinic that travels to school sites. Students receive a vision exam from an optometrist and, if glasses are prescribed, can choose their frames from a wide selection of colors and sizes. The glasses are delivered to the kids at school two weeks later. All of Vision to Learn’s services, from the exam to the glasses, are provided free of charge.

Earlier this month, the Vision to Learn mobile eye clinic traveled to five elementary schools in Dubuque and three elementary schools in Jackson County. All of the participating schools receive Title I funding and a high percentage of their students come from low-income families. Due to lack of health insurance, difficulty accessing eye care providers and other obstacles, many of these students who are identified in state-mandated school vision screenings do not receive the follow-up care or glasses they need.

Between January 7 and 14, optometrists on the mobile eye clinic examined a total of 178 students who had been identified in fall vision screenings as needing follow-up exams. Of those, 90 received prescriptions for glasses and 18 were referred on for further vision care.

Research by the University of California Los Angeles Mattel Children’s Hospital shows that Vision to Learn has a direct impact on education outcomes for children supported by the program and improves the learning environment for the entire classroom and school.

Locally, the Iowa pilot project has uncovered just how essential this outreach is:

  • Many of the students identified as needing glasses have extremely high prescriptions, which is often an indication of a long-undetected vision problem.
  • A significant number of students had been prescribed glasses at a young age and are still wearing the same prescription as many as four years later.
  • A large number of students who should be wearing glasses have gone without for as long as two years because their current pair had been broken or lost.

CFGD brought Vision to Learn to Iowa through its Dubuque Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which works to help more children read at grade level by the end of third grade.

“Our goal is to help more children read at grade level by the end of third grade,” said Nancy Van Milligen, CFGD president and CEO. “A child’s health, including the ability to see the whiteboard or words in a book, can have a major impact on his or her ability to read and learn. We are excited to bring Vision to Learn to Iowa.”

Vision to Learn Founder and Chairman Austin Beutner added, “Vision to Learn helps provide every child with the chance to succeed in school and in life.”

Vision to Learn began operations in Los Angeles in 2012 and now serves children in schools throughout California, Delaware and Hawaii. Vision to Learn, a not-for-profit organization, serves the needs of the hardest-to-reach kids in low-income communities. More than 89% of kids served by Vision to Learn live in poverty and 87% are kids of color. Since its inception, the organization has helped more than 45,000 kids.

Click here to support the Vision to Learn Project in Dubuque and Jackson County. 

For more information on Vision to Learn, visit

Watch video from our stop in Maquoketa at Briggs Elementary »