COLUMBIA – Healthy Learners is celebrating 25 years of being devoted to removing children’s health barriers to learning with love and compassion. Prior to 1992, too many children who were in need and without resources in South Carolina were falling through the cracks of the health care system and were going without needed medical services.
Not being able to see the front of the classroom or not being able to focus because of a bad toothache or not being able to get to the doctor because parents cannot take time off of work created major barriers to learning.
A group of concerned community leaders and public school system representatives teamed up to address these needs in Richland County. With the support of Providence Hospitals and funding from The Duke Endowment, Health Reach was created (renamed Healthy Learners in 2000).
Healthy Learners began primarily as a vision services program in five Columbia elementary schools—Sarah Nance, Watkins, Carver, Lyon Street (now Carver-Lyon) and Burton (now Burton-Pack).
Healthy Learners later expanded to offer other health care services like assistance with referrals for clinical counseling, dental care, coordination of health care, transportation to appointments, vision care and more.
Twenty-five years later, Healthy Learners is now a faith-based non-profit partnering with 11 school districts statewide and serving 151schools in five program areas—Allendale, Dillon, Georgetown, Greenwood and the Midlands. Financial support to make the expansion possible has come from many sources, including the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina, The Duke Endowment,
BlueCross BlueShield Foundation of South Carolina, Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation, Self Regional Healthcare, Self Family Foundation, corporations, individuals and others.
“Our greatest accomplishment over the past 25 years is the positive impact made in the lives of the students we have served who are the living testimonies for all of those who have and will continue to contribute to the mission and vision of Healthy Learners,” said Jo Pauling-Jones, executive director, Healthy Learners. “The lives they are living reflect the desires of those who have committed to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”
In 25 years, Healthy Learners has provided nearly 59,000 vision, dental, medication and other health-related services to 12,644 individual students across South Carolina on its mission for healthy children, better students and thriving communities.