From Small Town to Springfield
Missouri State University’s Public Affairs mission is often something that is overlooked by both prospective and current students. While it is an extremely important aspect of the university, it is easy to be hidden underneath all of the other beautiful amenities Missouri State has to offer. This week, students are encouraged to focus on one specific pillar of the Public Affairs mission – Community Engagement. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’” Well, this week the students, faulty, and alumni of Missouri State University need to focus on answering that question. What are YOU doing to help others in your community?
I left the small town I call home to come to Missouri State University in the Fall of 2013. While I did not realize it growing up, I quickly discovered that I had been extremely sheltered in my small, quiet town. I was never openly exposed to homelessness, hunger, or poverty. Although I know now that those issues were present where I grew up, they were always hidden from me as a child and adolescent. When I moved to Springfield, it became common to witness poverty wherever I went; I even witnessed it frequently on Missouri State’s campus.
At the beginning of this semester, I was in the right place at the right time and I was offered the opportunity to work in the Center for Community Engagement office. It was through this facility that I first learned about the Bear Blitz project. I learned about the current issues Springfield was facing through the Community Focus report, and how Northwest Springfield in particular was facing problems like access to food and transportation. When looking at the problems from a broad perspective, the idea of trying to make a difference seems like a challenging and daunting task. However, when many volunteers are willing to contribute their time and labor, the potential to change lives is incredible.
Vision Screening Program
The Vision Screening Program is a project that reaches out to daycares, elementary schools, and other establishments in an attempt to provide free vision screenings and color vision testing. The project uses a Spot Vision Screener, which is a portable, hand held hi-tech camera that takes a picture of the eyes. The camera can provide information as to whether or not the person being screened has myopia, hyperopia, or an astigmatism, and it is able to screen individuals as early as 6 months old. The program also includes color vision testing, which is completed by using a ColorDx testing booklet. The camera stores information like age and gender along with the screening results, which will be used in the future for research purposes. Although the focus of the program is mainly directed at children, the Vision Screening Program also extends their services to organizations like the Salvation Army Harbor House, and the Salvation Army Food Pantry, so that adults may be screened for free as well.
I am a research assistant for the Vision Screening Project. My jobs involve calling daycares and schools to schedule screenings, preparing packets of permission forms and information, preparing spreadsheets, and filing information. Although I normally perform the “behind the scenes” work of the project, I sometimes get the chance to participate in the actual screenings. After a whole semester of working on this project I finally got to lead my own vision screening, where I was personally able to screen 215 children completely on my own. It was so rewarding to actually go out into the community and see the difference the program was making firsthand, especially after all of the office work I had done to prepare for these events.
This experience has opened my eyes to the urgent need for change in the Springfield community, but it has also showed me the challenges associated with making that change. It is important to realize that volunteering isn’t all glamorous, and that not all parts of the process provide the same feeling of euphoria one gets when directly
helping others. The Springfield community needs Citizen Bears both behind the scenes and in the field in order to make sustainable, long lasting change.
-Lucy Beeler, Senior, Research Assistant in the Center for Community Engagement