As visitors to the Providence Academy website can quickly see, the community is “dedicated to serving the needs of our students, whether those needs are spiritual, moral, or intellectual”. Last week, PA helped serve even more needs than just those listed here. This month, with the help of many parent volunteers, PA conducted its annual basic health screening for Lower and Middle school students. The screening identifies students who need additional referrals and gives them resources to improve their health. 

A volunteer conducts a basic vision test with Erin Brown ’24 during last week’s health screening for Lower and Middle Schools.

In 2009, when Providence’s small number of students was just beginning to grow, “We decided it was time to do health screening”, recalled Mrs. Maureen Murphy, our beloved school nurse.

The tradition has stayed because of the many kids who showed signs of a need to be rescreened for vision or hearing.  This year, 1.3 percent of students screened were referred for help: 2% of first grade boys for vision, 1.5% of third graders for vision or hearing, 1% of fifth graders for vision, and 1% of eighth graders for vision and hearing.  

In order to better fit children’s needs, health screening has changed to target places where kids need more help now than they might have in the past.  For example, the screening process for hearing has expanded, requiring students to listen for a new pitch.  The Department of Health implemented this addition in an attempt to identify teenagers who are susceptible to hearing problems due to headphone use.  

“On average, 10-15% of eighth graders have hearing loss due to loud noises in headphones”, Murphy reported, “This addition is mostly educational.  If you’ve got hearing problems now, we want you to realize how you may not have that much hearing in the future”.

Volunteer Lizzie Hilberg plays different sounds in Dennis Cui’s ’24 headphones.

But the attention and care given to kids’ needs isn’t the only characteristic that makes health screening at PA so personal.  The volunteers make the health screening process truly special. Murphy reflected, “We have a committed group of volunteers that come back year after year to help; even the parents of graduated students.  They are so dedicated to our community and believe in what we do. Parents make health screening for us”.

In addition to the support the volunteers give, they have a personal connection with many PA students.  First grader Wells Martin remembered that health screening wasn’t scary because “the volunteers were good”.

Mrs. Hillen, a PA mom who has volunteered since health screening first started, shared, “One of my favorite parts of volunteering is the the kids.  It is great to see them grow a little each year. Health screening really is a fun time for all!”