A Houston Health Department program that puts underserved students on the path to success through the gift of sight is back at full capacity. The “See to Succeed” initiative, held Feb. 8-11, was the largest since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The four-day clinic provided free eye exams and corrective eyewear to approximately 900 Cy-Fair ISD students with unresolved vision needs. The program, a public-private partnership supported by the Houston Health Foundation, has served more than 87,000 students and provided more than 80,000 pairs of glasses since 2011.

Photo courtesy:
Houston Health Department

“See to Succeed is one of the most impactful programs at the Houston Health Department and fills a vital gap experienced by many students in our region,” said Stephen Williams, director of the health department. “Without these free eye exams and corrective eyewear, most of these students would go years, or perhaps a lifetime, without a core need to succeed academically and socially.”

The program serves school children ages 6-18 years from 13 school Houston-area districts and charter schools. Of the children served through the program, 69 percent are in elementary school, 51 percent have some form of limited English proficiency, and 94 are economically-disadvantaged.

Photo courtesy:
Houston Health Department

Each year, more than 40,000 children are diagnosed with a vision issue in the Houston region and half of the cases go unresolved. Unaddressed childhood vision disorders hinder development, social interactions, self-esteem, and school performance, especially in reading. Students who cannot read on-grade level are far more likely to drop out of school, and those with vision problems tend to earn 50% less annually upon entering the workforce.

“We’ve had some students even cry because it’s the first time they are actually able to see clearly,” said Jacy King, program manager for See to Succeed. “Seeing that impact is an amazing thing. I can’t believe that this is my job.”

In a study conducted collaboratively with HISD in 2015, the health department found the following program impact:

  • 69% of students with at least one prior disciplinary action showed improvement
  • 80% of students with failing grades improved: 94% of those passed reading; 67% of those passed math
  • 68% of students chronically absent improved
Photo courtesy: Houston Health Department

See to Succeed is supported by Berkeley Eye Center, Essilor Vision Foundation, San Jacinto College Eye Technology Program, the University of Houston College of Optometry, and numerous volunteer and philanthropic organizations.

The health department and partners conduct several one-day “missions” throughout the school year where hundreds of students rotate through various stations to receive comprehensive diagnostic eye exams. The last station offers a variety of frames for students to try on and select to be delivered to their school a few weeks later.