United Way and Vision To Learn program put the future in focus for 500+ Quad Cities kids

United Way Quad Cities is providing a vision for success to local elementary school students with the Vision To Learn program, which on Wednesday at Fillmore Elementary School in Davenport celebrated providing glasses to the first 500 students in the Quad Cities.

This partnership creates youth opportunity and academic success through vision screenings, eye exams and glasses for students at Title I schools, at no cost to students or their families. Since the August 2023 launch of the program in Davenport, it has provided over 1,900 vision screenings and two pairs of glasses each to 515 local students.

Made possible through grants, private investments, as well as a grant from Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation, the program marked the end to its first school year with a “glasses celebration” where 100 students received their newly fitted frames. The celebration featured United Way representatives, Vision To Learn program facilitators, Davenport Community School District staff, funders and local dignitaries.


“When a student lacks access to eye glasses, that can mean the difference between them thriving at school or struggling to keep up,” said Rene Gellerman, president and CEO of United Way Quad Cities. “This innovative partnership with Vision To Learn and our public schools is another way we are mobilizing our community to help all children succeed in school, including reading proficiently by third grade.”

In the Quad Cities, only 55% of third graders can read proficiently. Students who can read at grade level by third grade are five times more likely to graduate from high school — paving the way to higher education, better opportunities in the workforce and improved health outcomes.

Working with local school districts, United Way has found that vision problems are often responsible for grade school students’ ability to keep up in class.

Meeting the range of student needs

Local operations are facilitated by Vision To Learn, a national organization which provides glasses to children in low-income neighborhoods. The organization, which along with insurance group Delta Dental, is among the funders for services in the Quad Cities. According to Vision To Learn, up to one in four school-aged kids have undetected vision problems.

“When a child comes to school, we make sure they’re provided with food, along with the books and school supplies they need. Why not glasses?” said Austin Beutner, founder of Vision To Learn. “Every child in every school, everywhere in the country, should have the glasses they need to succeed in school and in life.”

Vision To Learn fits in as United Way’s integrated students supports framework. The framework calls for surrounding students with a community of support, and providing students with the access to people and resources they need when they need them.

Find out more about our community schools initiative that is bringing a wide range of resources to students and their families.

Investing in QC kids

United Way’s approach with Vision To Learn has gained traction with private donors, foundations and businesses.

In addition to Vision To Learn and Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation, funding for local services comes from the Hubbell-Waterman Foundation, Quad City Bank & Trust, Regional Development Authority, Scott County Regional Authority, Arconic Foundation, LEEP Family Foundation, RBC Wealth Management, Walmart and the Quad City Federation of Labor. View the list of all our Vision To Learn funders.

“The generous investments from our business community and caring neighbors are erasing obstacles that hold kids back from reaching their dreams. More kids will be on track for long-term success thanks to the leadership and influence of our supporting organizations, as well as private Quad Cities residents who have locked arms with us through this new initiative for our community,” said Gellerman.

According to Suzanne Heckenlaible, executive director of Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation, “As Delta Dental has expanded into vision benefits with DeltaVision, we have also expanded our Foundation’s mission to include vision education and access. We are proud to support Vision To Learn and their work to expand vision care services and glasses for children across Iowa.”

For more information on Vision To Learn, please visit www.visiontolearn.org.

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