Helping Trenton’s youngest residents is certainly a vision we can all get behind!

As a part of its “A Vision for Trenton Youth” initiative, the Henry J. Austin Health Center (HJAHC) has been hitting the road to teach the surrounding communities more about how they can support Trenton students. Through the Vision to Learn program, Trenton children are given the opportunity to access vision care and corrective vision services that they might not otherwise be able to access. According to research, 1 in 4 children in public schools lack the glasses needed to help them see and fully participate in class. Now, HJAHC has made it their mission to serve 12,000 children and address this ever-pressing need.

As a part of their Giving Tuesday efforts, HJAHC has hosted pop-up galleries at a variety of establishments around the community, including Labyrinth Books in Princeton, the Princeton Barnes & Noble, and Starbucks right here in Trenton. At these events, attendees had the opportunity to see artwork made by Trenton Public School students and learn more about how they can help kids access the vision care they need. The artwork featured depicts a vision for Trenton’s future from the children’s perspective, providing an enlightening and inspiring picture of our city’s next chapter. Per Jared Strand, a member of the HJAHC media team, “We want to showcase their stuff. We want them to know, we’re thinking about you, we care about you, we care about Trenton. We want that to transcend within the community because at the end of the day, that is all of our futures.”

When discussing her hopes for the initiative, HJAHC CEO Kemi Ali stated “Vision and having glasses is something we take for granted. Being in school, and being successful in school, is what sets you on the path for success or failure. And so something as simple as not being able to see the board is life-changing for these children. So really, my goal and Henry J. Austin’s goal is to make sure that every child in the City of Trenton can see. I think that is such an attainable goal with our partner Vision to Learn, and we can really make that happen and thereby set children on a course for success.”

At the Barnes & Noble event, Trenton Daily had a chance to chat with Neha Rauf, a development specialist with Henry J. Austin. When asked about how the campaign came about, Neha noted “We were really lucky to partner with Vision to Learn because they are a national non-profit that provides vision services to underserved communities. And what they need is a partner that will help find the students and help to fundraise. They come with a mobile health units and go straight to the schools, which is amazing because a lot of the time the patients in our community don’t necessarily have access to health services. They have a lot of barriers, whether it’s transportation or being able to take off of work. etc., so the fact that they can go straight to the schools and provide services in the least disruptive way possible is what really attracted us to the program.”

Continuing to discuss how the partnership has included the students they’re serving, Rauf noted “I really wanted to get the kids that we would be serving involved in the project so that they had a voice as well; to get them not only excited about being able to do something good for their fellow classmates and people that needed vision services, but they also get to participate in the idea of Giving Tuesday and spreading generosity and community engagement. So the art was the medium that we chose to get them involved. We partnered with Princeton University Art Museum and they came and facilitated some workshops for the students in the Trenton Public Schools. We also partnered with the Boys & Girls Club as well as Big Brothers, Big Sisters to try to get all of the key organizations that work with the same populations for any youth involved.” Reflecting on how the students responded, Neha noted “I think they really enjoyed getting to make the artwork, and when they heard the artwork was going to be displayed, whether it was at Starbucks in Trenton or our Artworks event in January, I think that was a big draw for them.”

In discussing how the community can support this incredible initiative, Neha stated “There’s a couple of different things – Giving Tuesday on November 29th is the pinnacle of this campaign. People can donate at and check a box that states my donation is for Vision for Learn. And any little bit helps us to reach our goal.” When asked about what the ultimate goal for the program was, she continued to state “Our goal is to be able to provide the services to every single student who attends public schools. We’d love to screen every single student. The students that failed the vision screenings and need more corrective services, they’ll get a comprehensive exam and anyone that needs glasses based on that exam will get to have them for free.”

Discussing the long-term vision for the future,¬† Rauf concluded with “Our goal is to keep expanding these services and reach more people that need them in Trenton and Mercer County. This campaign is addressing one specific problem, which is students not having access to prescription eyeglasses, not having access to exams, etc., so that’s one small aspect of providing health and wellness care for this population.”

As the Henry J. Austin Health Center continues to support the health and well-being of our City’s students and residents, it is imperative that they have the support to continue this life-changing work. If you’re interested in aiding this wonderful initiative, donations can be made online here: Donate – HJAHC. Regarding the importance of giving, CEO Kemi Alli stated “No gift is too small, because it’s the small things that add up. Every drop makes a lake, so really, whatever people can give, it would be so appreciated.” Any questions regarding this program or other health services may be directed to (609) 278-5900 or Your contribution can help make this vision a reality, so let’s set our sights on helping Trenton kids!

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