RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif.—Students participating in the Visioning the Future Mentorship Program representing eight Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were recently recognized at a virtual ceremony for being accepted into schools of optometry. The group of 12 students were also awarded nearly $48,000 toward their education. Additionally, the program helps the students with long-term career planning, networking opportunities and other educational resources, according to a recent VSP Vision announcement. The students represent the third cohort of the Visioning the Future Mentorship Program launched in 2019 by the Dr. Marvin R. Poston Education and Development Foundation, the National Optometric Association (NOA) and VSP Vision to recognize students at HBCUs and foster their professional advancement in the field of optometry.

The 2022 Visioning the Future Mentorship Program Awardees are:

● Makayla Marie Cain – Salus University

● Jacory Kentrell Clayton – Kentucky College of Optometry

● Kelly U. Echeta – Ohio State University

● Chyna Allyssa Fitzgerald – University of Alabama at Birmingham

● Kaylan Darius Glover – Kentucky College of Optometry

● Taea Evelyn Mae Jackson – University of California, Berkeley

● Patria T. Juzang – University of Alabama

● Breunna Divione McCann – Indiana University Bloomington

● De’Ja Simone Montgomery – University of Houston

● Jerbrea Marie Powell – Southern College of Optometry

● Madison T. Roney – New England College of Optometry

● Shirmarie Lyrell Stark – Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences School of Optometry

Joining other VSP Vision partnerships, including the Dr. Marvin R. Poston Leadership Award and Black EyeCare Perspective’s 13% Promise, the Visioning the Future Mentorship Program is intended to diversify the eyecare industry and eliminate health disparities associated with a lack of representation.

“The Visioning the Future Mentorship Program identifies, encourages, and supports students underrepresented in the profession to envision themselves as future optometrists,” Dr. Edwin C. Marshall, NOA’s executive liaison, said. “This partnership between the Dr. Marvin R. Poston Education and Development Foundation, VSP Vision and the NOA was a vision of the Poston family and represents a focused extension of NOA efforts dating back to the 1970s to increase the visibility of optometry as a career among students at HBCUs and attract them into the profession.”

Dr. Paula H. Boone, NOA program director said, “I have been fortunate to personally engage with these incredible future ODs who are focused on the mission of the NOA to advance the visual health of underserved populations. They understand the significance of minority representation and many plan to return to their hometown communities to practice.”

Added Jarrett Johnson, OD, MPH, and VSP Vision board member, “I’m thrilled to see each of these exceptional students advance through the Visioning the Future Mentorship Program. Along with the Poston Family and the NOA, our unified goal is to support optometry by creating an inclusive and well-positioned next generation of optometrists, and these deserving students will play an active role in that progress.”

Dr. Marvin R. Poston, whose legacy inspired the program, was a trailblazer in the field of optometry. He became the first Black American admitted to the University of California, Berkeley, School of Optometry, the first Black optometrist to practice West of the Rockies and he would go on to co-found what is now VSP Vision. His commitment to optometry and community was recently celebrated among family, friends and mentees.

Marlene Bell, daughter of the late Dr. Marvin R. Poston, said, “The Dr. Marvin R. Poston Education and Development Foundation and the Poston Family are more than enthusiastic about our partnership with VSP Vision and the National Optometric Association. Together, our work will support the diversity of optometry and consequently increase the number of African Americans in the profession. Visioning the Future continues the work of Dr. Poston who spent many years mentoring students and practitioners who followed in his footsteps.”

Learn more about VSP Vision’s ongoing commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity here.