Opticianry’s Best in Class 2014 Are Fit for the Future

The 2014 Best in Class of Opticianry hail from colleges, technical schools and universities throughout the country. From North to South and coast to coast, each of the opticianry students in this year’s Special Report have been handpicked by their school and designated as the “best” because of their academic track records and competencies as well as their work ethic, commitment and determination.

Today’s optician, as the Opticians Association of America explains, is “a vision expert... a health professional specially trained to supply, prepare and dispense optical appliances through interpretation of written prescriptions. An optician is an integral part of the vision care experience that adheres to exacting standards in order to enhance your vision.”

As another roster of star pupils sets the stage for a bright future of opticianry, each has his or her own success story of scholarly achievements, professional organizations, community involvements and reasons for entering the field. What sets them apart is the distinctive visions they have for where opticianry will take them.

Megan Redman
The Baker College
Allen Park Opticianry Program
Allen Park, Michigan

Megan Redman said she became motivated to study opticianry just a few years ago when she was looking for a “change of pace.” She learned from a school advisor about the Baker program.

“I’m so happy with my choice and I love my new position at LensCrafters, putting into action all that Randall Smith has taught and continues to teach me at Baker. My goals after graduation are to definitely continue my education. I’m always looking to grow. I plan to pursue opportunity in the optical field and take this as far as I can.”

Redman is the second year student representative on the advisory panel for the opticianry program. She was one of the students selected by the Opticians Association of America to attend their Leadership conference last January in New Orleans. She secured an optical position with LensCrafters even before graduating from the program.

HER SCHOOL SAYS… “She has a wonderful optical career ahead of her.”

Audrey Brown
J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College
Richmond, Virginia

Audrey Brown spent many years working in the vision care field before she decided to pursue opticianry. For nearly 22 years, Brown worked for an ophthalmologist in Eden, N.C. She held various responsibilities over the years, including managing his optical, but when he started making plans for his retirement, Brown started to explore other options.

Originally she pursued nursing, thinking that returning to nursing school was the answer. But she met and started to explore the opticianry program with Yvonne Metten (now Pelkey), program director at JSRCC and jumped on board.

Living almost four hours from JSRCC, Brown needed to have a clinical site (with a finishing lab and an optical department) to be able to complete the program. After searching, Brown found Dominion Eye Center, located in Danville, Va., which welcomed her, embraced her education, and eventually offered her a full-time position while she attended school.

“All of my co-workers have spent countless hours helping me achieve my goal. I have always loved being in a private practice, and I have found a home here.”

HER SCHOOL SAYS… “She is a great choice for representing Reynolds and the future of our industry.”

Sarah Evrard
Indiana University School of Optometry
Optician/Technician Program
Bloomington, Indiana

Sarah Evrard didn’t always know that she wanted to become an optician. “Actually, until college, I’d never heard about it but first learned about opticianry when my dorm had a ‘career fair.’ Sandy Pickel (the amazing woman in charge of the optician tech program at IU) was a presenter and it sounded so interesting, I signed up for her class. Once I started, I knew instantly, this was the career for me.”

Evrard was awarded the “Optician of the Year” award from the Indiana University School of Optometry’s Optician/Technician program, an honor determined by votes from faculty, staff and fellow students.

Evrard just completed her Associates in Optometric Technology/Opticinary this past May, when she also took the ABO, and she plans to take the NCLE in November. She hopes to complete her Bachelors in General Studies in December, after which, she plans to move closer to her hometown of Tell City, Ind., and work in an optometry office there.

HER SCHOOL SAYS… “Sarah has a professional attitude and a good rapport with patients. She will be an asset to her profession.”

Eric Lindbloom
Erie Community College
Buffalo, New York

At the age of 40, Eric Lindbloom decided to go back to school, and after meeting with John Godert, the department head of Erie Community College’s ophthalmic dispensing program, Lindbloom knew it was the right choice for him. Over the past two years of his education at Erie, Lindbloom was awarded the LensCrafters Outstanding Academic Achievement scholarship, the Eyewear by ROI scholarship and the New York State Society of Opticianry’s Academic Excellence scholarship.

Lindbloom also attended the OAA Leadership Conference in New Orleans where he was awarded the top honors for the Opticians Association of America’s Vision of Hope scholarship, sponsored by Hoya. He maintained a 4.0 GPA and made Dean’s List for the past four semesters, graduating at the top of his class. He’s currently employed as a dispensing optician at Troidl Optical Inc. in Cheektowaga, N.Y. and plans to continue his educational studies in the field of orthoptics.

“I’m grateful for the continuous support from my professors ,my friends and my family and, most of all, my girlfriend, for inspiring me to go back to school.”

HIS SCHOOL SAYS… “Eric’s dedication and consistent effort is outstanding.”

Lynsey Lowe
Roane State Community College
Harriman, Tennessee

Lynsey Lowe said that her daughter was “by far” her biggest inspiration to continue her education, and particularly one in opticianry. “When she was 10 months old, I had noticed her eye turning inward. We took her to an ophthalmologist, and he diagnosed her with amblyopia. When he gave her new eyeglasses prescription to me, I immediately took her to a dispensary. I was fascinated with the way the optician interpreted her prescription. She had to line everything up perfectly to meet my daughter’s needs to see. I realized that those people are a huge aspect in many children’s and adults’ lives. The doctor may be the one who writes the script, but opticians give the gift of sight!”

Lowe has decided to continue her education even further. She will be attending East Tennessee State University (ETSU) in the fall to obtain her Bachelor’s degree in Allied Health Leadership.

“I plan on becoming a licensed optician very soon. I work at The Eye Care Clinic in West Town Mall in Knoxville, where I work under an optometrist, helping to fit and finalize contact lens prescriptions.”

HER SCHOOL SAYS… “Lynsey was elected ‘Opticianry Student of the Year’ by her classmates and will be representing Roane State in this year’s College Bowl competition in Nashville.”

Sara Rosen
Hillsborough Community College
Tampa, Florida

A few years ago, recalled Sara Rosen, while assisting her mother shopping for new glasses, “I recognized that my business sense, experience in sales, and strong mathematical skills would fit perfectly with a career as an optician.” Soon after, Rosen enrolled in the Opticianry Program at Hillsborough Community College attracted by their first-rate professors and the state of the art technology in the labs.

She is the recipient of the Opticianry Program’s “Clinical Excellence” award and has also been very active in Hillsborough’s student optical organization. She was also a finalist for the Transitions Optical “Students of Vision” scholarship.

“When I began my education at Hillsborough Community College my intention was to open my own optical shop upon graduation. While in the program, I became aware of other opportunities available to an optician with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Finance,” said Rosen.

HER SCHOOL SAYS… ““Sara has the skills and personality to be a great optician and leader in our field.”

Graxi Wells-Collins
Ogeechee Technical College
Statesboro, Georgia

Graxi Wells-Collins was motivated by her two boys, Jay and Keylan, to show them the value of education. After putting her own education on hold to work and provide for her family, she was drawn to the opticianry program at Ogeechee Technical College (OTC) and enjoyed the challenge of working and balancing family needs, she said.

Wells-Collins graduated from OTC with an Associate of Applied Science in Opticianry with a 4.0 GPA and was on the Presidents List every semester. For her efforts, her instructors nominated her for the National Technical Honor Society. She was also nominated twice for the Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership.

She passed the ABO and NCLE certifications (on her first try) before she graduated and she will sit the Georgia state board exam in August.Through her work at Ogeechee, Wells-Collins, got a job at Pearle Vision in Pooler, Ga. She said, “I love my job, I have learned that our sense of sight allows our mind to dream and wonder. It allows us to visualize, anticipate, and help us build memories in each and every second that passes by. I love being part of a team of why our patients are able to see clearly the most important moments of their lives.”

HER SCHOOL SAYS…”Graxi is a dedicated, hard worker who aspires to be the best at what every she does. On class projects she took the lead and her fellow classmates were more than willing to follow her lead because she took the time to include everyone and was able to incorporate their ideas into a doable plan of action. She is dedicated to the field of opticianry where she will make a positive impact.”

Steve Zanetti
Raritan Valley Community College
Raritan, New Jersey

Steve Zanetti is described by Brian A. Thomas, Ph.D., ABOM, coordinator of the ophthalmic science program at Raritan, as “a man with a mission.” Despite working full time as an apprentice optician and despite family obligations, Steve not only managed to complete the opticianry program in two years but he excelled as a student.”

Zanetti said he was motivated to enter the Raritan program by alumni. “I was working at a digital surfacing lab and the owner of the company asked me if I was interested in going to school to become an optician. I talked to other opticians who assured me there was a constant need for qualified New Jersey opticians and after about two days of contemplation, I was jumping in head first.”

Zanetti had been working for Monroe Labs LLC in Stroudsburg, Pa, as a lab manager. He started school while at the lab and then began gaining some practical experience working with one of that lab’s customers, The Optical Center of Newton, N.J. “After that, I’d love to start my optician career and become a successful optical manager and hopefully I would be able to open my own clinic.”

HIS SCHOOL SAYS… “He was always, without fail, fully engaged as a student and prepared for all of his classes. He is most certainly goal oriented and in possession of some fine leadership attributes.”