Vision To Learn program launches in S.C. with MUSC Health affiliation

Underserved students in Charleston County to gain access to vision screenings, eye exams and free prescription glasses

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Sept. 29, 2021)– Thousands of students in the Charleston County School District (CCSD) who struggle with their vision will benefit from a new program launched this month. It combines the efforts of the nonprofit organization Vision To Learn and the teams of MUSC Health, MUSC Children’s Health and the MUSC Storm Eye Institute.Through this collaboration, CCSD students attending Title I schools will be provided a vision screening, eye exam and, if needed, a new pair of glasses, all free of charge. The program uses a mobile vision clinic to bring a licensed South Carolina optometrist and optician directly to children where they are all day, every day — at school — providing much-needed access to basic yet critical vision care to South Carolina children. Read more about a recent Vision To Learn school session here.

Vision To Learn Charleston’s optometric office on wheels will travel to Title 1 schools, examining 15 to 20 children per day who did not pass a vision screening.Children select from a wide range of frame choices while in clinic and are fitted at school by a trained optician with their new glasses a few weeks later. 

“We are thrilled to be bringing service to students in the Charleston region,” said Vision To Learn President Ann Hollister. “By providing free eye exams at school, Vision To Learn helps students get the glasses they need to succeed in school and in life.”

In partnership with Vision To Learn, MUSC Health provided capital funding for the first mobile vision van and all optometric equipment for the program launch in South Carolina. In addition, the organizations plan to develop referral strategies that connect children and their families to community providers of their choice for follow-up optometric and ophthalmologic care following the initial glasses exam. Approximately 30% of students examined are expected to need a referral. The affiliation will also benefit students by developing take-home materials that educate families on the importance of seeking out regular eye care so they find an eye care medical home and continue to assess and improve vision care access and student self-esteem and prevent more serious eye disease and blindness.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to help students who have, for years, gone without basic eye care — to the detriment of their academic achievement. Every child deserves the opportunity to reach their full academic and wellness potential,” said Patrick Cawley, M.D., MUSC Health system CEO and Vice President for Health Affairs, University. “This program is a great fit with our mission to improve continuity of care for children in need throughout the region, and we look forward to working with other community eye care providers to fill this important need for our community’s children.”

An estimated 7,700 children in Charleston County School District go to school every day without the glasses they need to see the board, read a book or participate in class. Neighboring Dorchester County has another 3,000 underserved students in need and Berkeley County has 8,000 children who need glasses but do not have access to them. The Vision To Learn program looks forward to expanding to Dorchester and Berkeley county schools starting in years two and three of the program.

“Vision To Learn offers a wonderful opportunity for our students. VTL removes the financial and transportation barriers that our low-income families may face,” said Ellen Nitz, R.N., CCSD director of Nursing Services. “The ability to see and learn will positively impact the student's academic success. We look forward to seeing the positive impact that VTL brings to our district.  What a beautiful gift to provide to our scholars!”

A 2021 study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Ophthalmology by researchers from the Center for Research and Reform in Education and the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University demonstrated that providing glasses to children at schools leads to a dramatic increase in learning. This research — the largest controlled study of its kind in the U.S. — followed more than 7,000 children helped by Vision To Learn in Baltimore for three years. Students who were provided glasses showed gains in English and math standardized tests, equivalent to an added two to four months of learning on average. The children who showed the biggest gains, the equivalent of four to six months of learning, were those who are often the hardest to help — students in the bottom quarter of their class academically and students with learning differences and disabilities.

By providing glasses, Vision To Learn Charleston will help narrow the achievement gap identified in the 2018 Tri-County Cradle-to-Career Collaborative education report, as well as immediately help students recover from learning loss caused by the pandemic’s disruptions to the educational system.

The program launch has the generous support of a broad coalition of Charleston philanthropic institutions, led by community volunteer Mr. Henry Blackford, including MUSC Health, Roper St. Francis Physicians, Motley Rice LLC, Ingevity, SC Physicians Care Charity, Post & Courier Foundation, Ceres Foundation, Carolina Panthers, Volvo, Walmart, many individual donors and in-kind support from the Essilor Vision Foundation.


About Vision To Learn

Vision To Learn, a non-profit charity, started in Los Angeles in 2012. The program has helped children in over 500 underserved communities across 14 states. Vision To Learn serves the needs of the hardest-to-reach children; about 90% of kids served by Vision To Learn live in poverty and about 85% are children of color. Since its founding in 2012, Vision To Learn has helped provide more than 1.2 million children with vision screenings, 300,000 with eye exams and almost 250,000 with glasses – all free of charge to children and their families.  For more information on Vision To Learn, please visit

About MUSC

Founded in 1824 in Charleston, MUSC is home to the oldest medical school in the South as well as the state’s only integrated academic health sciences center, with a unique charge to serve the state through education, research and patient care. Each year, MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and nearly 800 residents in six colleges: Dental Medicine, Graduate Studies, Health Professions, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy. MUSC brought in more than $271 million in biomedical research funds in fiscal year 2020, continuing to lead the state in obtaining National Institutes of Health funding, with more than $129.9 million. For information on academic programs, visit

As the clinical health system of the Medical University of South Carolina, MUSC Health is dedicated to delivering the highest quality and safe patient care while training generations of compassionate, competent health care providers to serve the people of South Carolina and beyond. Close to 25,000 care team members provide care for patients at 14 hospitals with approximately 2,500 beds and 5 additional hospital locations in development, more than 300 telehealth sites and nearly 750 care locations situated in the Lowcountry, Midlands, Pee Dee and Upstate regions of South Carolina. In 2021, for the seventh consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report named MUSC Health the No. 1 hospital in South Carolina. To learn more about clinical patient services, visit

MUSC and its affiliates have collective annual budgets of $4.4 billion. The more than 25,000 MUSC team members include world-class faculty, physicians, specialty providers and scientists who deliver groundbreaking education, research, technology and patient care.