Camorri Ganaway, 9, doesn’t need glasses. The third-grader from Western Hills Elementary School had her eyes checked at school this year, as required by Texas law. Still, she said, she knows glasses can give people “a whole new experience” of the world.

Ganaway and her cousin, Trinity Walker, 8, helped cut the ribbon Jan. 9 at the unveiling of the new Alcon Children’s Vision Center in Fort Worth.

The center, a partnership between Alcon, an eye care company founded in Fort Worth, and Fort Worth ISD, opened in August and provides free eye care and glasses to students in the district, thousands of whom failed their vision screenings last school year. Half of those students didn’t receive a follow-up exam, according to data collected by Alcon

“This is the beginning of their lives,” Vision Center optometrist Rosie Cruz said. “If they can’t see, they can’t learn. If they can’t learn, how are they going to grow? And if they can’t grow, then what are they going to be in their future?”

Clear vision, or lack thereof, can affect everything from a student’s ability to walk smoothly to an accurate learning disorder diagnosis. 

“Whenever they’re trying to test for dyslexia, they need to get glasses first,” Cruz said. “Is it glasses? Or is it actually dyslexia? So it’s part of their battery of tests — like, how do we help them learn?”

Cruz remembers putting on her first pair of glasses; the experience inspired her to become an eye care professional. “I was like, ‘Oh my god, the trees have leaves on them,’” she said. 

The Vision Center serves as home base for a work already in progress. In the 2021-2022 school year, Alcon helped conduct free vision screenings and follow-up exams for pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students at campuses throughout Fort Worth ISD. Those onsite screenings and exams will continue, Cruz said. 

What’s the difference between a vision screening and a comprehensive eye exam?

Vision screening: A simple test that consists of an acuity check and/or a photo screener assessment to identify students who might need a further evaluation. Does not provide enough information to prescribe glasses. 

Comprehensive eye exam: A thorough assessment of a student’s visual acuity, binocular vision status, refractive error and ocular health. Provides enough information to prescribe glasses, if needed. 

Source: Optometrist Rosie Cruz

Students who need follow-up eye care or glasses and students in older grade levels can then come to the Vision Center. The services are directed toward students who face barriers to care, whether financial or transportation or something else. Still, Cruz added, everyone is welcome. 

Students only need a referral from a school nurse to receive Vision Center services, she said.

The model is the first of its kind in Texas, Fort Worth ISD assistant superintendent of student support services Michael Steinert said at the unveiling, which took place onsite at 8376 Mojave Trail. He spoke in front of the Vision Center, a muraled building that sits between Western Hills Elementary and Western Hills Primary School. 

“There is no other ISD in the state of Texas that has a vision center within its facility,” he said. 

Alexis Allison is the health reporter at the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from Texas Health Resources. Contact her at alexis.allison@fortworthreport.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Alexis AllisonHealth Reporter

Alexis Allison covers health for the Fort Worth Report. When she can, she'll slip in an illustration or two. Allison is a former high school English teacher and hopes her journalism is likewise educational....