Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Seeing is believing as Reynolds opticianry students change lives in Jamaica

Jamaica is often thought of as a place for relaxing vacations, swimming in crystal clear waters, enjoying the spectacular scenery and food and taking in the native culture - but for a group of J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College students and faculty members the reason for a recent visit was entirely different.

On October 12, a group of eight students and four faculty members left Richmond for a ten-day journey to serve with the international humanitarian eye care project iCare. 

“It was an opportunity for them to see the world is much larger than Richmond and that they can make a difference, not only locally but internationally as well,” said JSRCC Opticianry Program Director Yvonne Metten.

iCare is a life changing program that harnesses the compassion and expertise of humanitarian eye care professionals by sending them to Jamaica to give the gift of sight to thousands who can’t even afford a pair of reading glasses.

“At first we looked at the trip as what can we really do as a student?” said Megan Heiser, who commutes an hour and a half to the College’s Downtown Campus twice a week from Courtland. “We didn’t have a lot of experience in the industry and we wondered how much of a difference could we make.”

Once in Jamaica the students and faculty members quickly found out any help they could provide was very much welcomed and needed.

“Normally even if they can come up with the money, it is a two year waiting list to even see an eye doctor,” noted JSRCC student Leah Elkins who commutes to Reynolds from Williamsburg. “It costs them about a month’s salary just for an eye exam, so many of the people there have accepted that they just won’t be able to see.”

In areas where the group worked, there are no publicly available optometrists, and only one ophthalmologist for over 1/2 million people. The students and faculty members’ skills of being able to perform visual screenings, checking vital signs such as blood sugar, blood pressure and glucose levels and dispensing of eye glasses was very much appreciated by their patients.

“I lost the fear of working with people,” noted Elkins. “You are thrown right into it, so you can’t be scared. I didn’t have a lot of experience working with people directly before, so it definitely helped me overcome some of my fears.” 

“By the work being hands-on, we are now better trained to fix the problem and not just identify it,” said Rachel Williams, a 2011 Caroline County High School graduate. “By working with the people of Jamaica, I have definitely become a better person."

During their stay, the students and faculty members served over 1,700 Jamaicans in a space the size of two classrooms.

“We changed lives. They will never be the same as they will be able to do things they have never been able to do,” said Jaclyn Salsbury who entered the opticianry program after serving four years as a pharmacy technician. “It was a great opportunity to help others - it gave me the feeling of meaning – that what we did meant something to others.”

The JSRCC opticianry program has a long history of participating in community service programs including annually volunteering with OneSight, which spends five days at the Arthur Ashe Center providing local children with eyes exams and glasses.

“I feel it is important to give back to people that might not have as much as others,” noted Metten describing the need to volunteer. “While there is a lot we can teach in the classroom, we can’t teach compassion….they need to experience it.”

Hackberry Trees planted at JSRCC

Reynolds’ Green Team members along with other volunteers planted eight hackberry trees on the Parham Road Campus on Sunday, December 9th.  The trees, ordered by the Reynolds Environmental Sustainability Committee, were selected because of their carbon sequestering characteristics. 
Carbon dioxide plays an important role in natural processes such as photosynthesis. However, the release of too much carbon dioxide causes environmental problems and contributes to global climate change.
Carbon sequestration is the process of capturing and storing carbon. Planting trees in certain areas can create the opportunity for carbon sequestration.  The hackberry tree is very good at removing carbon dioxide pollution from the atmosphere. The trees planted in December at the Parham Road Campus will absorb and remove from the atmosphere over one ton of carbon dioxide in about 10 years.
In addition, the hackberry fruit is an excellent winter food source for many birds, such as cedar waxwings, mockingbirds, and robins. In other seasons bluebirds, catbirds, cardinals, and towhee will eat the fruit. The hackberry tree will also provide protection and comfort to birds and dragonflies that use our small pond.
Hackberry trees will also be planted at the Goochland and Downtown campuses in the next few days. 
For more information on the Reynolds Environmental Sustainability Committee please contact Chairman Richard Groover at 523-5594 or  For more information on the Reynolds Green Team, please contact Charlie Peterson at 523-5821 or 

Decorating Lewis Ginter for the holidays

J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College has been fortunate to partner with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden since fall 2011 to offer students enrolled in HRT 195, Christmas D├ęcor for the Home, an opportunity to help decorate part of the botanical garden for their annual Gardenfest. The class, which meets at the garden, is taught by adjunct professor David Pippin. Lectures and demonstrations center around Christmas decorations for the home.  Students also have the opportunity to create some decorations for their home, including a mantle arrangement, a spray for a door as well as an evergreen wreath. Students also complete a design proposal for a fictitious client showing how they would decorate the client’s home for Christmas.

This year’s class of 14 students was divided into three groups to decorate the entrance to the Robins Visitors Center, the entrance to the Education Library Complex and the dining room in historic Bloemendaal House.  All groups met with garden staff to share their plans and ideas for decorations.  Upon approval, students worked each week to complete the necessary decorations which complemented this year’s theme, “East Meets West,” focusing on the flora and arts of Japan.