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Northside Changemaker: Tom Solyst

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As executive director of Vera Court, Inc., which includes the Vera Court Neighborhood Center, Bridgeport-Lakepoint-Waunona Neighborhood Center and Latino Academy, Tom Solyst models one of the keys to his accomplishments. A coworker said, “He doesn’t coast, he wants everyone to think about improvement.” 

Tom started at the Vera Court Neighborhood Center in 2000 and was the only staff person working at the center in that time – everyone had been laid off due to the lack of funds. That facility has doubled in size under his tenure, and programming has grown to include Girl Neighborhood Power, Life as a Boy, Youth Leadership Program, RISE Middle School, High School Leadership Program and an elementary after school program that serves 50 kids every day.

Folks who work with Tom describe him as having a good sense of humor, being kind, willing to give people the benefit of the doubt, not carrying preconceived notions, being reliable and congenial and very, very committed to the center—always there first, even on weekends. 

Tom’s own words show best why he is a Northside Changemaker.  He wrote this in Vera Court, Inc’s annual report last year:

“Yes, it’s been exciting to see the growth in buildings, program participants, and staff, but it’s been even more meaningful to see that some things, the most important things, remain the same.  Every one of our community members is part of our family, and from the moment they first walk through our doors, their story becomes our story.”

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