Thanks to some special visitors to their school, more than 90 students at Highpoint Elementary in Clearwater now look at the world in a whole new – and much-improved – way.
On Tuesday, Tampa Bay Buccaneer players Keith Tandy and Dekoda Watson, along with Buccaneers Cheerleader Tricia, Glazer Family Foundation staff and team mascot Captain Fear, presented a group of Highpoint students with brand new glasses through the Foundation's Vision Program.
The Glazer Family Foundation Vision Program provides a much-needed and comprehensive service, not only detecting but also helping to correct serious vision problems in underprivileged students. The program is a three-step process that includes initial eye screenings, secondary vision examinations and, for those who still struggle to see clearly, a brand new pair of glasses.
"I couldn't read two pages at a time; I had to stop at the first page, and it took me longer to read," said Omarii Forte, a third-grade student at Highpoint who received a pair of prescription glasses on Tuesday. "It would probably take two weeks to read one chapter for me. It was awesome because I can now probably read better and everything pops and the words will be bigger."
An added bonus: Forte's new glasses were presented by his Tampa Bay heroes. "This is the best day of my life because the Buccaneers are my favorite team," he said.
Added fourth-grader Jashanti Ross: "I feel great, because I really love the cheerleader and I really love the players."
During Tuesday's visit, Tandy and Watson spoke to the students about the importance of wearing the glasses to help improve their eyesight, a message that was clearly received by the students.
"With my glasses, I [can] see really clearly and it doesn't make it hard for me," said Ross. "When I didn't have my glasses, it made it hard for me to see things [and] I would bump into lots of stuff."
This winter and spring, the Foundation has presented almost 1,000 Bay area students at nearly a dozen schools with free pairs of glasses. The donation should prove particularly useful as schools prepare for this year's FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) examinations, an important part of the state's educational evaluations.
"It's an obstacle that we really in the past haven't had control over, and thanks to this Foundation, the Buccaneers and the Glazer Family Foundation, now we feel positive that our scores are going to be good," said Dr. Susan Taylor, principal at Highpoint Elementary. "We were a 'D' school last year; we've worked really, really hard, but this issue with glasses, it takes a community. So now that the children have the tools they need to perform, I know we're going to do really well next week, so we're excited."