October 23, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
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The gift of sight

Three Medina County Career Center students have helped give sight to those in need.

Through a community service project, the trio has donated eyeglasses to local children and people all over the globe.

Seniors Samantha Arancibia, Bilal Ghanem and Natalie Stojkoski are members of the first graduating class in the career center’s optical program. At school they have learned to use equipment typically found in an optometrist’s office to perform vision tests, determine lens prescriptions and repair eyeglass frames.

The career center’s optical program is one of the only programs of its kind in the country at the high school level, said Amanda Hamm, the program’s instructor.

Using the skills gained in the classroom, the students started the “Gift of Sight” project and volunteered with partners such as the American Red Cross of Greater Cleveland and OneSight to provide around 1,700 inner city Cleveland students with free eye exams and prescription glasses.

“We did vision screenings,” Bilal explained of their time helping doctors in Cleveland.

“We saw a lot of kids with really bad problems,” Samantha said. “One girl could barely see the top letter (on the eye chart),” but after receiving glasses, “she was like ‘my parents are going to be so excited.’ ”

The three also performed similar vision screenings for preschool students in the Brunswick area.

Children helped by Gift of Sight have written letters of thanks to the group for their help and care, which the trio has kept in the portfolio of their work.

Along with performing vision tests for children, the students repair donated eyeglass frames, determine each pair’s lens prescription, and label, clean and package them to be sent to nonprofit organizations such as OneSight, which delivers the recycled lenses to developing countries around the world.

Hamm said because eyeglasses are considered medical devices, they cannot be recycled in the United States, though they are accepted in other countries.

The students’ dedication and impact already has been recognized by Skills USA, an organization that supports the work of career tech students, teachers and industry workers.

The students won first place at the state level for the Skills USA championship competition in the community service category, and they are attending the national competition in Kansas City, Mo., in June.

To meet the competition’s requirements, the students have documented their efforts throughout the school year and must present a portfolio and display of their work.

Bilal said they have gone one step beyond the requirements and created a video showcasing their work.

However, the students said it was using their skills to help others that ultimately brought them satisfaction.

“We’re not doing it for ourselves,” Samantha said.

She said being able to see clearly is important, “especially when kids are so young and they want to learn.”

“You really did something for people,” Natalie said, reflecting on the experience.

All three said they want to enter the optical field after graduation.

Bilal plans to attend Cleveland State University to earn his bachelor’s degree before pursuing an optometry degree from The Ohio State University’s competitive program.

Samantha hopes to join the Peace Corps and use her skills to bring health care to people in need, and Natalie plans to enter the optical field, possibly in Australia.

Contact Kaitlin Bushinski at (330) 721-4050 or kbushinski@medina-gazette.com.