Sr. Director, EyeMed Head of Marketing
Follow me on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/scott-kosinski-wow-results.
As you read the intro to my story, try to envision…
First, you are going to participate in a free vision clinic held in the school gymnasium for over 150 kindergarten through 5th grade students.
Second, you know in advance that many of the students may have to spend up to 3 or 4 hours in the gymnasium as they move from station to station through the clinic.
It’s okay. Let it sink in.
My guess is you are imagining something just less of pandemonium. Noisy children running amuck. Fights breaking out. Tattling. Frazzled teachers at their wits end, begging or yelling at them to stop. I’ve been to such schools. You probably are not envisioning an exceptionally pleasant group of the most respectful, polite and well-mannered children you’ve ever encountered. Yet, that is exactly what I encountered recently at Ferguson Elementary in Duluth, Georgia.
Ferguson Elementary is a public school where many students travel long bus rides from around the district every day. The school is a cornucopia of ethnic backgrounds. For a number of students, English is their second language and translators are available to assist. Over 85% of the Ferguson students are eligible for free and reduced lunch (FRL) programs, and many are Medicaid eligible.
First impressions lead to lasting impressions
The first thing you notice when you arrive at Ferguson Elementary is it’s a beautiful school. It’s likely not the building you imagine when you know the background or stats I just shared; it’s the school EVERY child deserves regardless of their socioeconomic or demographic status. It was built thanks to the generation donations of a former teacher, Dartha B. Ferguson, through her family foundation.
A few hours into a visit to Ferguson, you notice what I already shared. It takes a few minutes to set in and realize something isn’t quite what you thought. The young students are exceptionally respectful of each other, of their teachers, of their school and of guests. When I shared my impressions with their principal, Dr. Angelique Mitchell, their assistant principal, Tan Grant, and their counselor, Sherry Ferguson, they each separately shared the same response, “Ferguson Elementary is focused on positive reinforcement. Students focus on the 3 Rs: Respect, Responsible and Role Model.”
Ms. Ferguson gave me an example of the 3 Rs in action: If you’re in a classroom and a child is misbehaving, at Ferguson the teachers don’t call out the child who’s misbehaving like you’d experience in many schools. The teacher will redirect the focus of the class to the children who are being positive role models for the entire class. Over time, this works very well with young children who want to exemplify and be recognized for being a role model, being respectful and being responsible.
I can tell you firsthand, the 3 Rs were 100% visible throughout the day. Not once did I hear a teacher reprimand a student. There is something at Ferguson for us all to learn about the importance and impact of positive behavior.
These young role models deserve the right to learn
Fact: There is a global vision crisis. One in 7 people across our planet lack access to vision care.
Generalization: When we hear the words “global crisis” we think, “but that’s there and not here.”
Many of us think of places like The Gambia, Rwanda, Vietnam or Bangladesh.
Reality: There is ALSO a crisis right here in the United States. And amazing children, like those I met at
Ferguson, deserve the ability to see clearly and learn. We need them.
Over 300 Ferguson students, kindergarten through 5th grade, were pre-screened for vision issues, and more than half were referred for a complete eye exam during the 3-day OneSight clinic held at the school. More than 85% of the Ferguson students who came to the clinic needed eyeglasses and received them during our visit at no cost (through funds raised from OneSight donors).
Clear vision changes lives—especially for children
Glasses and fast math. I had a chance to visit the kindergarten classroom the day after 8 students in that class received their new glasses. Not only did the kids look incredibly cute in their tiny glasses, the classroom teacher indicated she immediately noticed a difference in 1 of the boys as he instantly was paying attention to the board. Another young boy showed us how much faster he can do his math puzzles now that he has his glasses. And in his words, “You have to be fast to be smart at math. And all of us in our class are smart because we help each other.” This is a sage wisdom about learning from each other.
My favorite story. A young 5th grade boy named Jorge received his new glasses and didn’t want to leave the gym. I told Jorge it was time to get back to class. He kept looking around all over and said, “I just can’t go back yet. I’m taking it all in. I can see again. I broke 2 pairs of glasses, and my mom said we can’t afford them anymore. But there’s no way I’m breaking these. I forgot what I was missing.” Then, in true child fashion he noticed a candy bowl on the table and said, “I mean, even that candy looks more delicious with my new glasses (pause)-- can I have some?” Eventually, with candy in hand, we convinced Jorge there was plenty more to see on his journey back to class.
ULTIMATELY –- children re-frame reality
I’ve visited many schools over the years. I’m the proud son of a former Chicago school teacher, and brother to a high school guidance counselor. Separately, I also have 20/20 vision. But thanks to the wonderful faculty and children of Ferguson Elementary in Duluth, Georgia, I’m seeing the world a bit more clearly, and more positively.
I needed my vision to be re-framed (so to speak). There are so many terrible stories in the news, and it seems like this year, every time you start to digest 1 terrible story another has just occurred.
But my trip to Ferguson reminded me that behind-the-scenes, and what you rarely ever see in the news, are countless people working tirelessly and positively for the good of others:
- This year, I’m thankful for educators like Dr. Angelique Mitchell, Tan Grant, Sherry Ferguson and my own brother who are not content with the status quo, but who actively seek new ways to connect with children, bring out their best and build a new generation of positive, productive leaders
- I’m thankful for business partners like EPIC Insurance and their team that adopted a local school and sought out a new opportunity to serve an amazing group of children
- And I’m thankful for organizations like OneSight that address both global and local vision care needs and provide opportunities for EyeMed and other organizations to partner with them to change lives
But most importantly, I’m thankful I had the opportunity to speak to and look into the eyes of the children at Ferguson Elementary and see what I needed to see—that there are still eyes that DON’T see what I’ve seen. They’re aware of the news, but it has yet to jade their views of the world. They don’t yet recognize the walls that data would suggest are impediments to their success. They don’t see color or profile each other. And they don’t see hate. They're not separated by politics or religions. They don’t see limits.
In their eyes is something far more compelling—unlimited curiosity and creativity. There is brutal honesty, but also compassion and friendship. And there is wisdom. But last, there is what I needed to see. There is hope.
Seeing these kids see clearly gives me hope. Seeing how these young children are willing to stand up and be role models gives me hope. And that hope starts with 3 very important Rs that we could all use a reminder of: Respect, Responsibility and being a Role Model.
I invite you to visit onesight.org to learn more about how OneSight is helping the world see, or to donate and support its work.
CATEGORY: Corporate Culture
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