According to the American Optometric Association, approximately 12 percent of teenagers have undetected or untreated vision problems. To address this issue, Girl Scout Kianna Hawkins launched EyeCare4TeenVision, an eye health initiative that provides teens ages 12-19 access to basic eye care services by partnering with vision-advocate organizations that provide resources for vision screenings, eye exams and glasses as needed to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award – the highest honor a Girl Scout can receive.
|Gold Award Recipient Kianna Hawkins|
“Vision care is not a component of the high school health curriculum and in most cases the only exposure teens have to eye care comes from vision screenings given during physical exams,” said Hawkins, a junior at Mirabeau Lamar High School. “So teens who don’t have access to healthcare or don’t receive regular exams have no way of knowing that their vision may be the reason behind their poor performance in school, low testing scores and inability to excel in sports or extracurricular activities.”
Through Hawkins’s EyeCare4TeenVision initiative, approximately 90 middle and high school students completed eye exams to help identify undiagnosed and uncorrected vision during World Site Day, October 8, 2014. Twelve students failed the screening and were referred to eye doctors for further assistance. They were also given access to vouchers that partially or completely subsidized costs for vision care services, including eye glasses. In addition to the screening, Hawkins held a Christmas eye glasses recycling drive which she called the Gift of Sight. The drive collected more than 320 used pairs of glasses that were donated to organizations providing vision services overseas.
“I originally thought that vision screenings were the solution to the problem of uncorrected vision among students in my focus group, but I learned that the benefits of educational efforts and vision screenings are comprised by the lack of follow-up,” said Hawkins. “Almost 70 percent of the students who receive referrals do not receive follow-up eye exams and glasses.”
In 10th grade, Hawkins learned that she would need glasses after not having a recent vision exam, so she decided to do a bit of research. She found out that state sponsored eye exams were not mandated beyond the 7th grade. That’s when she decided to use the Gold Award as an opportunity to promote a teen-focused eye health awareness initiative.
The Girl Scout Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting; it recognizes girls in grades 9-12 who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through sustainable and measurable Take Action projects. Since 1916, girls have successfully answered the call to Go Gold, an act that indelibly marks them as accomplished members of their communities and the world.
Hawkins has been in Girl Scouts since first grade and considered dropping out when she started high school due to her hectic drill team schedule, but her troop leader encouraged her to stick with it. Much to her avail, Hawkins made a commitment to earn her Gold Award.
To successfully complete requirements for her Gold Award project, Hawkins recruited eight volunteers and completed 113 leadership and service hours.
“Since I completed this project, I am more aware of the socio-economic challenges that some people face and how these challenges affect and shape peoples’ thought processes,” said Hawkins. “Now I think about solutions from a different perspective, in hopes of finding solutions.”
After graduating from high school in 2016, Hawkins will attend Howard University and major in business marketing with a focus in brand management and chemistry.