St. Paul students are receiving plenty of help when it comes to exams of the vision variety.

See St. Paul, a partnership launched a year ago to screen elementary and middle school students for vision problems, is nearing a $600,000 fundraising goal needed to cover eye screenings and follow-up care for as many as 14,000 children a year over 10 years, the group announced this week.

About $190,000 must be raised to end the funding campaign and take advantage of a new $250,000 matching grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation, organizers say.

Under the program, students in kindergarten and in the first, third, fifth and sixth grades undergo vision screening under the direction of staff members from the Early Youth Eyecare Community Initiative (E.Y.E.), a program of Phillips Eye Institute, which is part of Allina Health.

If additional care or glasses are needed, the service is provided regardless of ability to pay by Phillips Eye Institute and its Kirby Puckett Eye Mobile, a partnership news release said. The project came about after studies showed vision to be the top health disparity that contributes to academic achievement gaps.

"Students who can see well are much more effective learners," said Kirk Morris, principal of Benjamin E. Mays International Magnet School, where the matching grant was announced this week.

The Otto Bremer Foundation also backs a similar project for Minneapolis Public Schools students.

See St. Paul is a partnership of the St. Paul Public Schools Foundation, the St. Paul Public Schools and the Phillips Eye Institute Foundation.