CHINA GROVE — If students at South and North Rowan high schools weren’t already seeing clearly, they will be soon.
Members of the Salisbury Lions Club used the vision van, a traveling clinic equipped with the tools needed to test eyesight, to check the visual acuity of more than 150 students at South on Thursday.
Today, the vision van will roll over to North, where Lions Club members will provide vision screenings for the school’s freshman class.
Bryan Hoover is site coordinator for the vision van, which travels throughout the state. He said the Lions Club’s motto of “We Serve” is reflected in clubs across the state providing vision screenings at about 150 sites each year.
“We are trying to serve the public by doing this,” he said.
Hoover said the vision van has conducted more than 100,000 screenings since it hit the road in 1999.
Although 90 percent of those screenings were done in a community setting, the remaining 10 percent have been at schools.
“Most kids, if they have had a visual impairment since they were born, they don’t realize that they should be seeing any better,” Hoover said. “They have a really hard time learning in school if they can’t see clearly, so our goal is to help find those kids and try to get them the assistance they need to see better.”
Kady Samples, a student at South, said Thursday’s screening gave her a bit of peace of mind.
“I haven’t been to the eye doctor in a while, so it’s good to know my eyes are OK,” she said. “It’s really nice of (the Lions Club) to do this for us.”
Michael Childress, a sophomore, said he’s always had good vision, but he didn’t mind double-checking Thursday.
“It’s pretty cool they are here helping out,” he said.
Wayne Kennerly, a Salisbury Lions Club member, laughed with students Thursday before conducting their vision screenings. He’s been helping with the screenings for years.
“It’s good because we can help catch those kids who can’t see well and help get glasses for them,” he said.
Lori Swaim, another Salisbury Lions Club member, said she enjoys doing the screenings.
“They can help us detect some problems that they might not know about, so I think it’s very important,” she said. “In fact, I think it’s one of the most important things that we do.”
Vicky Slusser, executive director of Communities in Schools of Rowan County, said she contacted the Salisbury Lions Club for help with the screenings after the site coordinators at South and North indicated a need to get their students’ eyes checked out.
She said the club picked up the $130-per-day fee to have the vision van at each school.
“I was put in touch with their president, and then from there it was kind of just a chain reaction,” Slusser said.
Students who need to see an optometrist but don’t have insurance or Medicaid will receive a voucher provided through a partnership between Communities in Schools and Sight for Students.
“That provides them with one vision screening plus a pair of glasses,” Slusser said.
Slusser said vision and dental screenings have been on the student needs list all year, and she wanted to make sure at least one of those were met before the semester ends.
“If they are not able to see to read, they are not able to do their school work, and that’s going to be vital when they start doing end of the year testing,” she said.
Slusser said she’s still hoping to get dental screenings done, but hasn’t found an avenue to make it happen. She said poor dental health could prevent students from coming to school because of pain from decay or embarrassment because of missing teeth.