Lisa Solny receives Educatius Star Coordinator of the Year Award

Solny has coordinated international student study abroad for the past five years


Photo courtesy of Brett Solny

Lisa Solny poses with her certificate of recognition from OPUSD board members.

Lisa Solny was honored by the Oak Park Unified School District with the Educatius Star Coordinator Award at the school board’s monthly meeting on Feb. 19. Solny had previously been the recipient of this award from the Educatius organization itself in Jan. 2019.

The Educatius program was founded in 2003 in an effort to connect international students from around the world to study abroad at schools in the United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America. Four years after initiating their SELECT Public High School Program in 2007, Educatius partnered with Oak Park High School in 2011.

“This program is amazing because it is bringing Oak Park students [together] with kids from all over the world,” Solny said. “The future generation will be running the world so it is so important for [Oak Park students] to see that kids from other countries are all the same and are working toward the same goal, to be happy and make the world a better place.”

Solny’s coordinator duties include reviewing applications of international students that Principal Kevin Buchanan has approved, and matching families with students based on the personality and characteristics of both parties. Currently, Solny is hosting exchange student sophomore Emma Weiss from Austria, her fourth international student.

“I get along really well with the Solny’s. We are really close and I trust them a lot. I am really happy that they are my host family. They are really supportive of all my after-school activities and are always there whenever I need advice or help,” Weiss said.

Weiss said that she knew from a young age that studying abroad was something she wished to pursue.

“I understood how much studying abroad was going to benefit me when I got older and I really wanted to do it,” Weiss said. “This time affects so much of your life and has taught me so much already.”

Solny has been OPHS’s Educatius coordinator since 2014, after taking over from her predecessor Lori DeGrinis, who held the position for three years.

“I loved the program so much and [DeGrinis] said she didn’t have anyone to run it so I thought I could probably do it. I raised my kids in this community and lived here for 21 years — I know the community and I know what goes on,” Solny said. “I gave it a shot and I’ve loved it ever since.”

After receiving the award, Solny said that she was really touched.

“This program means a lot to me. I care so much about the kids.”

Solny’s youngest son Brett is a senior at OPHS. Brett Solny and Weiss attended the Board of Education meeting where Solny received the award.

“I’m super proud of her. She’s worked endless hours helping out all the students and with the program and making it what it is today and giving it a good reputation,” Brett Solny said. “It benefits not only the kids, but the families that host them. You learn about their heritage and how different the social structure is from their country to our country.”

In the school year of 2019-2020, Solny will continue her role as a coordinator as well as hosting a girl from Norway and a girl from Germany.

“I hope the future of this program is strong,” said Solny. “I think it’s an important program for both the American kids and the kids from the international world to see that you guys are all the same and that we live in one world.”