Luis Alvarez, the principal of Palmetto Elementary School, said his students will get free eyecare next month. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

POINCIANA – It’s called Transitions, but the particular transition that students at Poinciana’s Palmetto Elementary School have been going through involves something critical: their health, well being — and their ability to see the work put in front of them.
For too many students, problems with their vision are made worse because they can’t afford to buy corrective lenses. This makes their daily learning experience even more of a challenge. That’s why, said Luis Alvarez, principal of Palmetto Elementary School on the Polk County side of Poinciana, the school’s decision to take part in the championship known as the Transitions “Eye Pledge Challenge” paid off so handsomely.
“I’m very excited,” Alvarez said, “that Palmetto Elementary has been selected as the winner of the Transitions Optical Eye Pledge Challenge.” What that means for the students, he said, is that the school will get a visit this month and in March from Transitions Optical’s and VSP Vision Care’s Mobile Eyecare Clinic named “Eyenstein.”
Transitions Optical joined up with Prevent Blindness Florida — a non-profit organization promoting healthy vision care through advocacy, education, screening and research — to provide students with initial screenings during the first week of February.
“This initial screening provided Transitions Optical the students who need a full exam when the Eyenstein bus comes on March 7 and 8,” Alvarez said. “Every student that has a full exam on the Eyenstein bus will instantly receive a pair of glasses with their choice of frames before exiting the bus. Those students not in attendance will receive a voucher to attend the closest VSP provider for a free exam and glasses.”

Palmetto Elementary School in Poinciana has been selected as the winner of the Transitions Optical Eye Pledge Challenge.

It is, the principal added, a great benefit to his students, many of them from working class families who don’t have health coverage or eye care.
“This opportunity has truly been one of a kind, and couldn’t have had better timing as the students are able to receive glasses that they have always needed — and right before the FCAT,” he said of the statewide testing system for students. “With an average of one in four children having an undetected vision problem that can interfere with the ability to read and learn, proper eye care and eyewear are critical to a child’s performance in the classroom and in their everyday lives.”
So how did this happen? By entering the competition, schools got the opportunity to let their students win complimentary vision screenings and free eyewear fitted with Transitions lenses. The challenge was open to all schools that attended the 2011 Transitions Championship Youth Days.
“Our school was determined to do our best to win this for our students,” Alvarez said.
To enter, Palmetto had to complete the Eye Pledge Challenge Participation Form, which generated the mailing of the school’s Eye Pledge Activation Kit containing the details of the Challenge. The school with the highest percentage of participation based on the total enrollment had a chance to win a visit from Transitions Mobile Eye care Clinic named “Eyenstein,” for the students to receive free eye exams and free eyeglasses.
Sarah Miranda, an educator at Palmetto, served as the school’s program ambassador and got her students actively involved in the competition. The students in each class were asked to sign an Eye Pledge petition sheet. It was a way for the students to let the competition know they think about their eyes and take proper steps to protect them on a regular basis.
“She then had each class submit a compelling creative visual submission of their choice,” Alvarez said, which included storybooks, posters, a collage, even videos. Each one represented the theme, “What Would You Miss Seeing If You Didn’t Take Care of Your Eyes?”
“Lastly, Mrs. Miranda collected all signed Eye Pledge petitions and creative submissions to mail back to Transitions Optical,” Alvarez said.
The school got notified by email that they had won, he said. And the real winners, he added, will be those students who will get the vision care they need but simply couldn’t otherwise afford.
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