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Students get free exams, glasses from Wal-Mart

SUWANEE - Rukiya Yembo said she was a little nervous Wednesday morning before having her eyes examined for the first time, but the 9-year-old also expressed some excitement.

"I won't have to get out of my seat anymore to go see the board," the fourth-grader at Nesbit Elementary said.

Seventeen students from the Meadowcreek cluster school had vision check-ups Wednesday at the Wal-Mart on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road in Suwanee. Optometrists with U & M Family Eyecare performed the exams, while the Wal-Mart Vision Center is providing the prescription glasses at no cost to the students or the school.

"If a child can't see the board in school, how do they excel in education?" asked Dr. Umar Ishaque, who co-founded and manages the practice with his wife, Dr. Mumtaz Bashir.

After examining five of the students, Bashir said she was surprised at how many different visual problems she found.

"All of these things affect school work and how they function on a daily basis," she said. "I think we can really, really help them."

Vision screenings miss about one-third of all eye problems, so a yearly check-up is essential for children at least 5 years old, Bashir said.

School board member Louise Radloff, who is also on the Gwinnett County Board of Health, arranged for the exams with the help of Sheila Fultz, a public health nurse.

Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church transported the students from the Tucker school to the Wal-Mart, and McDonald's, located inside the store, provided lunch for the children.

Radloff said the event was a great example of the community "being there" for the students.

Vernon Goins, spokesman for the East Metro Health District, said the event was an opportunity for the health department to work with some of its community partners to improve the lives of children.

"Some of them had never before had their vision checked," Goins said. "It's our hope that their classroom experience will be much more enjoyable and productive because of their new abilities to participate in and understand visual lessons."

Janet Fienemann, a school social worker, said teachers and parents identified students who needed vision care but whose families lacked the insurance and financial resources for an exam.

Each year, the counselors in Gwinnett County report more than 500 students have vision problems but are unable to get care, Fienemann said.

Jessica Gonzalez, a fifth-grader, said she's had vision problems for three years but thinks her eyes will get better now.

"I say thank you to all the ones who helped us get our glasses," Jessica said.