PEOPLE The New England College of Optometry (NECO) and Warby Parker Expand Scholarship to Increase Black Representation in the Field By Staff Thursday, July 1, 2021 12:24 AM BOSTON—New England College of Optometry (NECO) is announcing that eyewear brand Warby Parker has expanded its first-of-its-kind scholarship at NECO, with the goal of increasing Black representation in the field of optometry. The Warby Parker Scholarship, established in the fall of 2020 to cover the tuition of two Black scholars for the College’s four-year doctor of optometry program, will now expand to provide two additional Black optometry students with a tuition-free opportunity. One of the largest single donations from a vision care business in recent history, in total, Warby Parker will now provide over $700,000 in scholarship dollars to increase Black representation in the field of optometry.This will cover tuition for four optometry students to complete NECO’s four-year program. VMAIL reported on the initial scholarships last fall.Following the announcement of the inaugural fund last year, The New England College of Optometry reports that it saw a record number of Black applicants, increasing by 85 percent from the previous year. The scholarship’s first two recipients, Avia Dolberry of North Carolina and Sefra Belay of Maryland, will matriculate this fall, with the following two recipients beginning the College’s doctor of optometry program in the fall of 2022.NECO president and CEO Howard Purcell, OD, believes that this second gift from Warby Parker will continue to help attract more diverse students to the field of optometry. “Through this generous gift, the people of Warby Parker continue to show their deep commitment to social responsibility and ultimately a more diverse eyecare industry,” said Dr. Purcell. “The benefit to the students is remarkable, yet the benefit to future patients is immeasurable.”“It’s critical that we continue to lay the groundwork for long-term change in the optometry industry, and we are so excited to expand the Warby Parker Scholarship at the New England College of Optometry with this in mind,” said Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO at Warby Parker. “Increasing representation takes dedicated time, resources, and proactivity. This is an ongoing process and our commitment to furthering diversity, equity, and inclusion in the industry is a long-term priority.”The Warby Parker Scholarship expansion is a continuation of the institutions’ joint mission to foster diversity, equity and inclusion within the optometric community. Only 2.7 percent of optometrists currently identify as Black, and the field has seen historically low Black representation due to, among other things, a lack of awareness and exposure.Prior to the scholarship, NECO signed on to the 13% Promise, a pledge led by Black Eyecare Perspective (BEP), which asks for greater equity and Black representation in eyecare companies, colleges of optometry, and optometry boards of trustees. As part of its larger Racial Equity Strategy, Warby Parker’s efforts aim to promote racial equity both at Warby Parker and externally within the optometry profession at large. More specifically, the brand has committed to 10 goals, one of which is to increase Black representation in the field of optometry and in the technology sector. More about their progress is posted in Warby Parker’s annual Impact Report here.