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Nonprofit Has Clear Vision for City's Underserved Students

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A nonprofit that specializes in providing free eyesight services is set to launch two permanent clinics at schools in the Bronx and Brooklyn this fall. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

There's a van parked outside PS 335 and MS 584 in Brooklyn this week that some kids say works magic. Students go inside for about an hour, and when they come out the world looks different -- and they look different.

The VisionVan is a mobile clinic run by the global nonprofit OneSight. It's staffed by volunteers - optometrists and other specialists - who are able to diagnose vision problems and make glasses for students who need them. Within an hour, students say everything has changed.

"Now that I got my new glasses, I'm so happy that I can see clearly and things go bigger than before," said one student.

Of the 500 students at these two schools, 130 failed the initial screening exam.

"I always knew - being in education for 23 years - that there was a connection between school and being able to see and being eye-healthy and all of those things but just never had the resource in order to make this happen for children," said MS 584 Principal Gilleyan Hargrove .

Since 1996, OneSight's VisionVan has served 30,000 city students. But in September, it will open permanent clinics in two elementary schools, in Brooklyn and in the Bronx. Together, they'll provide care for 10,000 students a year.

The clinics are opening in partnership with the teachers union as part of an effort, supported by the mayor, to create more so-called community schools.

"We want our school to be the hub, where the school community can get all types of services, where they can get mental health services, where they can get health services as well as us giving them academic services," said PS 335 Principal Karena Thompson.

Beside being able to see, kids say they love their new glasses.

Kindergarten student Jose Hernandez says his parents told him he looked fantastic. 

"Because I look so pretty," said another student.

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