North Central resident Terry Stines, 70, graduated last month from the Maricopa Skills Center at Gateway Community College as a certified ophthalmic assistant (submitted photo).

After exploring a variety of vocations, including fixing up antique automobiles, North Central resident Terry Stines decided to go back to school just after his 70th birthday last year. The reason behind his return to education started with a mission trip to Guatemala organized by his church, Bethany Bible Church.

The mission team that Stines joined consisted of two doctors, a nurse, a nursing student, and a fireman/EMT. The team treated many locals, especially administering medicine for worms, pre-natal care, treating injuries and infections and pulling lots of teeth. Stines was the main “pill counter” in the temporary pharmacy.

The team had taken many pairs of glasses with them but did not end up distributing any because there was no one to match up glasses and people.  That’s why Stines decided to go back to school. If he could acquire the skills of an ophthalmic tech, he could distribute glasses on upcoming mission trips. He would be able to evaluate a person’s vision and get them the correct glasses.

Last month, Stines received his certificate to be an ophthalmic assistant from the Maricopa Skills Center, on the campus of Gateway Community College. He completed a 702-hour program that included instruction in taking patient histories, basic eye testing and measuring, administering directed treatments and topical medications, diagnostic test procedures and equipment operation, anatomical and functional ocular measurements, and more. He also completed 120 hours of “externship” with Eye Doctors of Arizona and Scottsdale Center for Sight.

Stines plans to return to Guatemala, certificate in hand, this August. But that only gets him partway to his goal. He will also need the proper equipment to bring to Guatemala to conduct eye exams to accurately match glasses to clients. What his is most in need of is a direct ophthalmoscope, and trial frames and trial lens sets. Local ophthalmologists or other eye professionals who have an older piece of equipment they are willing to donate should contact Stines at


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