BOONE – For the local resident with drawers full of reading glasses because at some point he forgot them and bought another pair – thus unwittingly becoming a ‘collector’ (again and again) – Watauga High School’s anatomy class has a solution: “Our Spectacular Ride. And the same goes for eyeglasses that the original owner no longer needs. Someone else can probably use them.
One student was from Blowing Rock, another from Mabel. A couple went to college at Parkway. Yet another attended elementary and high school in Nashville, Tennessee, after her father, now a teacher in the state of Appalachia, in Boone.
They may all come from different areas inside and outside of Watauga County, but they now share three things in common: they all attend Watauga High School; they are in Dr. Scott Evans’ anatomy class; and they are all engaged in community service.
What makes the anatomy course particularly unique is that it is atypical.
“At the school board meeting last week, they brought together all the groups of students doing service projects for an update and we were the only ones tied to an individual academic class. The others were initiatives of student organizations, such as the Sustainability Club, or a sports team.
The anatomy course project? Collect glasses – eyeglasses – for the benefit of other people who cannot afford glasses. From April 4-8, all eyewear collected will be donated to the Boone Lions Club and the non-profit organization’s eyewear initiative.
Junior Brooke Scheffler smiled broadly as she revealed the name of the project, “Our Spectacular Drive.” Their slogan, the group said in unison: “Look Better. Live better. See better.
“Dr. Evans pitched the idea to us at the start of this semester and we were all excited about the idea,” said Brelyn Sturgill, senior. We are all excited to do something for people who need this kind of help.
Ilya Corts agreed, saying community service is important whether you’re working for a class, an organization, or just on your own as a volunteer.
Each of the class members took on different roles in the project, including Blowing Rock’s Sarah Scheurer, who took on the daunting task of spreading the word to the community.
“When you think about it, the gift of clear vision is perhaps the most important of the five senses. Even if you’re not blind, if you can’t see clearly, it presents challenges in the way you you move through the world,” Schuerer said. “Imagine holding a book in your hands that you can’t read because all the letters are blurry. On the other hand, imagine you come across a danger because you can’t really see past the tip of your nose. From that perspective, these are really important things that we do to help people.
“In any case, projects like this improve your community in the long run,” Corts said. “For us as young people, it also helps strengthen our moral compass and builds our confidence in our ability to help others.”
Logan Aldridge, the only young man in the class, said he learned the importance of doing things for others without financial compensation.
“Money is important,” Aldridge said, “but at the end of the day, you can have all the money in the world and not be happy. Helping others makes me happy.
Especially for Corts, his college studies in anatomy at Watauga will help lay the foundation for his career plans.
“I want to go into forensic science and be a medical examiner,” she said.
Aldridge said he plans to take a year off after graduating from Watauga and then go to Caldwell Communtiy College for a few years before transferring to a 4-year school.
“I took anatomy just as a filler course, with no real expectations,” he said. “But what I’ve found is that I really like learning how the physical body works.”
For Scheffler, the project became personal.
“On a personal level, I know a lot of people who are challenged by their vision, as well as the cost of corrective care,” Scheffler said. “Optical work can be very expensive and sometimes even difficult to obtain. For us, being able to help in this way is a really cool experience. Community service teaches us many life lessons, including the importance of giving back to our community. If we can make someone else happy, then that makes us happy.
Asked about the origins of the idea, all the students were quick to point the finger at Evans.
“My son went to Watauga High School his first two years and then graduated from the North Carolina School of Science and Math. He had two old pairs of glasses and came down one day and asked if he should throw them away or if he could do something else with them. I replied that I thought they could be donated to a community service project, helping people both locally and around the world. A friend of mine at church belongs to the Boone Lions Club and he told me that they had a program where they took the glasses and had a routine to identify the prescription and file them. Then they distribute them to various groups around the world.
“We also pick up reading glasses to give to nearsighted people who have trouble seeing up close,” Evans said. “A lot of prescription glasses are for people who have trouble seeing at a distance. Even when prescriptions are custom-made to treat things like astigmatism, they can find a match for someone who needs that prescription. and, if not, they will keep them in a warehouse until they find someone.
Evans said he’s had a lot of great classes over the years, but the current group of just eight students is amazing.
“This is the best class I’ve ever had in my entire teaching career,” Evans said. “They are just outstanding and maybe part of that perception is because we worked together on this project. I think it’s important that our students enjoy doing something for others who might be less fortunate than themselves.
“So I appreciated the opportunity to tie this project into my anatomy class because we’re looking at the human visual part of the material we’re covering,” Evans added. “Next week they will be dissecting cow eyes. Later we will look at eye maps. This project just connected what we do in class with a problem that came up at home with my son’s dilemma. None of us wanted to just throw away a few pairs of $300 glasses. We wanted to find them a home.
Schuerer said local residents and business owners can support their project by donating glasses they no longer use.
“Between April 4 and April 8, you can drop them off at the school reception. Walmart has a collection box, as do all optometrists in town. Just put them in a bag and mark WHS on the outside so we can measure the impact of our work, Scheurer said.
Now if the class can just figure out how to tie anatomy to a field trip to Carowinds. Perhaps study how the blood rushes to your head as you ride the “Afterburn” roller coaster, twisting and turning, sometimes upside down for nearly three minutes at 62 mph and 113 feet in the air.. .or how the heartbeat begins to quicken on the six-story high “Blackbeard’s Revenge”, whether it’s a vertical fall on “Pirate’s Plank”, or how the screams affect the eardrums on “Cannonball Drop”, or if the blood pressure of the human body rises on “Captain’s Curse”…