OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) - A non-profit organization and a rap superstar stopped by Oakland High School to celebrate a milestone and offer students free glasses on Friday.
Inside the on campus theater students were called up individually to receive a free pair of glasses after an exam was conducted in a mobile van equipped with proper equipment and an onsite optometrist. Master P, rapper, actor and philanthropist, presented the students with the glasses, some of which took them off while still on stage as if the newfound clarity was overwhelming.
Master P, who lived in Richmond as a child and attended Merritt College, has been working with the non-profit Vision To Learn since 2012, he joined shortly after Austin Beuter launched the organization with a single van. The rapper supports the program through appearances at schools. On Friday, he joined the outfit in Oakland to celebrate serving more than 100,000 students in 10 states.
“Helping 100,000 kids is just the beginning,” said Austin Beutner, Founder and Chair of Vision To Learn. “With the help of supporters like Master P, Vision To Learn will continue working to help every child get the glasses they need to succeed in school, and in life.”
The Vision To Learn team says when one student shows up on campus with new glasses they’re ostracized, made to feel uncomfortable, or insecure. But when multiple students sport new specs, like for example 40 – the exact amount of recipients Oakland high – they’re often more comfortable.
During the visit, Master P told students that he needs glasses. And he wants to get rid the idea that wearing glasses is not cool. In the U.S., an estimated two million students do not have the glasses they need at school. Master P encouraged them to wear and care for the gifts they received.
“I came to tell these kids personally that wearing their glasses is cool,” said Master P. “I look at these kids and I see myself at their age. These glasses will help them achieve their dreams.”
Beutner gave a rundown of the company’s mission – to provide glasses to every student who needs them, nationwide – shortly after the ceremony began. And then Master P addressed the kids before they were called up individually. He joked with them, asking if they got “A’s” and “B’s” before handing the gift over. Untreated vision impairment can create difficulties with learning and Master P believes providing glasses to those who need them is better preparing them to learn.
“If these kids can see, this will be one of the greatest projects I could be a part of,” he said. “We’ve already serviced over 100,000 kids and two-years from now we’re going to reach $2 million.”
Beutner, who’s mom was a reading teacher, launched the organization after someone brought to his attention that there were students in Los Angeles who needed glasses and went to school without them. So he bought a van and started to go to schools. He recalls how early on he learned of a girl who used a handheld magnifying glass to do her work. And another one who had a notable transformation.
“A little girl we helped was in special ed, got glasses, was retested and is now an honor student,” Beutner said. “No change, she was just badly misdiagnosed.”
And while Vision To Learn started with one van in Los Angeles a little over five years ago, they’re now in 200 cities across the country. A normal day for the staff gets started when their office is in contact with a school. Once a day is set, an optician, like LuzDivina Torres, drives the van to the school and performs an eye exam with a doctor. Results are examined then glasses are made and returned to students within roughly a month.
“I love it, because for my own experience, I needed glasses very young,” Torres said, who’s been with Vision To Learn since last October. “I didn’t get the attention that I needed and if I did I probably would’ve done a lot better in school.”
The initial cost to jumpstart the organization was funded by Beutner and he has since received support from additional philanthropists. Together they’ve figured out how to be reimbursed by insurers for part of their work. And sports teams – including the Golden State Warriors – also sponsor them.
“This is about vision, this is about the future and these kids are important,” Master P said. “I love the kids and I want to make sure they get an opportunity.