East’s Optical Program helping students see a brighter future

May 29, 2013

Sean measuring my eyes

Every year the RCSD spends hundreds of thousands of dollars installing and maintaining classroom digital whiteboards, “Smartboards.” But for many students, Smartboards do not work. For a simple reason. These students cannot adequately see the board. When you can’t see, you can’t learn. In fact, according to the American Optometric Association, as many as 60 percent of children described as “problem learners” actually have vision problems. A new and growing program, “Vision Care East,” is working towards a solution.

The Optics Program at East has two interrelated missions. Paul Conrow, precision optical fabrication teacher, and Logan Newman, ophthalmic fabrication teacher, know Rochester needs skilled workers in the high-demand ophthalmic fabrication industry and its students need proper eyewear to improve in their education classes. But until two years ago, there were no materials to make glasses and no class was offered or developed to teach it.

With state grant money and the collaborative efforts of local optics companies, Optimax, Advanced Glass, and Rochester Optical, East created two lab spaces where students learn ophthalmics (making prescription glasses) or precision optical fabrication (machining precision lenses for telescopes, cameras, etc.) using the machines and instruments found in industry. Designed with input from local experts, these courses simultaneously benefit students and the regional economy.

For example, this year seven of the program’s twenty graduating seniors applied, and were accepted, into Erie Community College’s Opthamalic Dispensing degree program (one of only two in New York State). Because of the partnership formed between East and ECC, these students will be forgiven a second semester fabrication class, saving time and money.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect is helping other city students see better. This year Newman earned his NYS optician certification. Under his supervision, Vision Care students can provide eyeglass repair and fitting and, most importantly, manufacture glasses for East students needing vision correction. And there are even bigger plans in the works.

Next year Newman will have a dispensing class where he hopes to have volunteer eye doctors visit once a week to perform exams. His class would then manufacture the prescribed glasses. Within a few years, he hopes to have doctors going to other city schools. Again, his Vision Care students would then make the glasses. Think of how many “problem learners” will discover their real problem was just poor eyesight.

Trisha measuring my eyes

When I was at East, Newman’s students kindly made me prescription distance and reading glasses. The room was filled with energetic young people enjoying hands-on-learning. Sean Migliore and Trisha Sampson were courteous and professional as they measured my eyes. And the final product was top notch.  The glasses were the same quality I have received from commercial optical stores.

As Vision Care expands, those Smartboards will be making city kids that much smarter.


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About The Author


Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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