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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Keeping it clean

Beach cleanups, fundraising opportunities and community service; normally one wouldn’t associate any of these with a group whose main goal is to enter optometry school. But one thing is clear as to why the UH Pre-Optometry Professional Society is so popular with students: through teamwork, friendship and dedication the members create a unique bond to help each other succeed in their goals.

The POPS isn’t only dedicated to getting its members into optometry school, but it also has a vision of better helping the community by lending a helping hand.

There are many reasons to join the organization, POPS public relations officer Phuong Doan said.

"We are an organization where all pre-optometry students can get together, get to know the field and experience a variety of guest speakers as well as experiencing volunteer opportunities," Doan said.

The group partakes in many extracurricular activities, including their second annual "beach cleanup" which took place this weekend. POPS members traveled to Rusty Hook beach in Galveston armed with trash bags and gloves to clean the area of any debris.

Kinesiology senior Tyler Tackett found the beach cleanup a fun way to get involved.

"We got into groups and walked down a stretch of beach around a mile long," Tackett said. "We brought garbage bags and gloves, went at it and picked up everything and anything we could find."

Doan also attended the event, where she found the cleanup to be very helpful to the environment.

"It was for a good cause, and it really makes you think twice the next time you visit the beach to have fun. Sometimes, you may leave stuff behind thinking it won’t make a difference when you’re actually destroying the environment," Doan said. "When you’re out there you see that every little bit counts and how quickly trash really adds up."

The Galveston excursion lasted about two hours, and the group collected more than a dozen garbage bags of trash from the mile-long beach stretch.

The beach cleanup represents just one of the many ways POPS is involved with the community, officers said.

President Nehad Virani, a biology and psychology senior, said the group has many events planned, including their Lighthouse of Houston fundraiser.

"We’re doing a Lighthouse event, which is for kids who have vision problems. It’s really difficult for them to enjoy Halloween; their lack of visual stimulation makes it hard to scare them," Virani said. "Since it’s hard for most of the kids to see, we try to come up with creative ways to scare them."

Eight organizations participated last year.

"We are very proud to announce that UH was selected as one of the three to continue on this year, and we look forward to helping out with the event," she said.

In addition to the fundraising and charity events, the club also arranges different opportunities for members to meet people involved in the field and get hands-on experience with optometrists.

Biology junior Paul Lovero, treasurer, explains how joining POPS creates important ties to the optometric field through screenings or visits to an optometrist’s office.

"One thing we try to accomplish is to make sure this field is right for our members. We have five to six screenings per week that go on during the month, where members are able to use the tools an optician would use at an actual office," he said.

Along with the screenings, the group also participates in Texas Optometric Association meetings with POPS chapters from around Texas.

"We attend the TOA in Austin, where speakers talk about the field of optometry and where people can learn more about it. That’s how I got interested. I joined POPS, and I went to the TOA, and that’s when I fell in love with optometry. Going there and meeting people from the other organizations, you make lots of contacts in the field," Lovero said.

Along with the charity events, fundraising opportunities and optometric screenings, some members had different reasons for joining POPS.

Biology senior Richard Van, who also attended the beach cleanup, said he decided to join POPS to pursue his lifelong goal.

"I am deeply in love with optometry; I have a burning passion to become an optometrist and by joining POPS, I have quenched my thirst for optometry," he said.

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