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OUR GRANT SUPPORTED the development of a Fellowship program purposed to activate sighted students into considering careers within eye health, vision care, and other occupations that service the visually impaired.  

The U.S. Department of Labor projects a 17% increase in the number of ophthalmic medical personnel positions by 2026, with California having the second-highest employment in the nation. Studies also point to the need for increased diversity in the allied health workforce to realize a culturally competent health care system. It is expected to be difficult to fill various "middle-skill" positions, including certified ophthalmic assistants (COA) and technicians (COT), since many people are not aware of the profession and there are limited education and training programs nationally.


It is widely acknowledged that when there is a declining interest or lack of awareness in career fields at the high school level, the flow of new workers into those trades will be curtailed. For this reason, the Fox Family Foundation strategically awarded support to fund Project InSight with the joint participation of the following grantees (and we're seeking to add more!):


  1. Big Picture Learning (BPL) to develop internship programs for middle and high school students in eye health, special education, and other vision-related fields.

  2. Southern California Eye Institute (SCEI) to build an Ophthalmic Education Program that builds middle-skills to address the gap in available ophthalmic medical personnel positions. 

  3. Vision To Learn (VTL) to provide hands-on internship experiences with older students while delivering free eye exams and glasses to kids in low-income communities.

  4. Wayfinder Family Services (formerly Junior Blind) to support their children and youth services in order to advance equity.


GRANT IMPACT Launched in January 2020, Project InSight has hit the following milestones:

  1. Student participation from 4 Big Picture Schools (and growing)

    • Pre-COVID students from Odyssey STEM Academy were taught to perform non-invasive tests such as visual acuity, 3-D vision, eye alignment, and refractive error by Vision To Learn staff for hundreds of elementary students.

    • With the outbreak of COVID, BPL partnered with SCEI to deliver a virtual summer workshop series focused on developing empathy and interest in eye health. Students from New Village Girls Academy were empowered to conduct basic eye screenings in their homes and were activated as citizen scientists and community health advocates. All ten participants were females from underrepresented groups.

    • As a separate summer challenge, BPL partnered with Wayfinder to consider how blind and visually impaired people could be inspired to get involved in physical activity and outdoor game-play. Student teams pitched their solutions to Wayfinder employees and the winning team was given funds to build a prototype that will be tested in the field. The winning project is a ball with haptic and auditory components that enable individuals with visual impairment to actively participate in playground activities.

    • SCEI launched a one-year non-clinical ophthalmic assistant concentrator course and rolled it out to three schools, including a Health Careers Academy

  2. Big Picture Learning again teamed up with the Southern California Eye Institute to develop a series of short videos entitled "Tools Of The Trade" which features an array of career tracks

  3. To ensure students are connected and excited by the content, BPL and SCEI have been leveraging simulations and other online virtual learning tools that offer valuable practice on the equipment and tools typically used to evaluate vision functionality, including EyeQue -- a social enterprise that seeks to give vision-care access to everyone. EyeQue's patented technology is an optical smartphone attachment that makes self-administered eye tests easy and affordable.

  4. In addition to twice-weekly lectures, students meet regularly with mentors so that these professional liaisons can not just support their mentees' educational attainment, but also serve as a character reference when students seek to step into their first jobs.

HOW IT BREAKS THE LINK BETWEEN POVERTY & VISION LOSS Project InSight empowers youth as eye-health advocates in their own communities. As a result, the following impacts can be achieved: 

  1. Project InSight builds education, skill development, and behavior and attitude changes, with the goal of persuading others to take action. Low-income and racial and ethnic minority populations benefit the greatest as they tend to be at greater risk for undiagnosed and uncorrected eye and vision disorders and diseases. 

  2. Career pathways in eye-health and vision-care fields tend to be complex, which can create challenges for developing programs that prepare and place workers in these occupations. Project InSight builds entry-level and middle-skill pipelines through fellowship-like opportunities (internships, externships, apprenticeships, job shadowing, etc.) coupled with certifications of skill mastery. 


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