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Navajo council buys eyeglasses for 9,000 schoolchildren

Window Rock, Arizona (AP) 1-08

The Navajo Nation's Tribal Council has voted to buy eyeglasses for more than 9,000 Navajo school children who cannot see the blackboard.

The council voted during a special session to give $495,000 to the Navajo Nation Department of Youth Development to fund eye exams and glasses priced at about $55 per pair for low-income Navajo students in New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.

Students attending school on and off the reservation are eligible for services.

Shiprock Council Delegate Leonard Anthony said a lot of Navajo parents don't have insurance and others are low-income. When the two conditions mix, he said, their children's eyewear can be neglected.

The bulk of the money is expected to go to the Gallup-based Bishop Optical, which already partners with the Navajo Nation to provide eyeglasses for elders.

"We have had thousands of requests from parents and grandparents," said Julie Smith, special programs manager for Bishop Optical. "We get tons of children who are enrolled in school and ask their parents for glasses, but the parents can't afford them. It's important for children to see. It's vital to their education and their livelihood."

The Navajo Sight for Students program will rely on school nurses to refer low-income students for services.

Exams are performed in the Gallup or Farmington locations of Bishop Optical, in the company's mobile clinic or at any other participating service, Anthony said.

The contract calls for 2,250 children to receive glasses every quarter during 2008, but Smith said she hopes to renew the contract next year.

 

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