William Vollin worked for Arlington Public Schools for 30 years as an educator, beginning his career in 1961 when his first job as a teacher brought him to the still-segregated Langston Elementary School. When schools became integrated, his students were transferred to Walter Reed Elementary School.
“What I found was that kids were kids even if they were different races,” said Vollin, 81.
Vollin became principal at Glebe Elementary School in 1974. He stayed there until retiring in 1991, but his work wasn't done: He's been helping Arlington County recruit minorities for staff positions ever since.
“The kind of things that I’ve tried to do is just try and be helpful and make a difference in terms of the minorities in the county and making sure that there is representative of the black community,” Vollin said.
Vollin is one of nine African-American seniors who will be honored Saturday at a Harambee ceremony.
Harambee suggests the Kenyan tradition of pulling together through community development activities, according to Arlington County's Department of Parks and Recreation, which distributes the awards.
“I’m delighted, but I’m not an ‘awards person,’ ” Vollin said. “I didn’t do it for any awards. I try to be beneficial in the community.”
All of the honorees have dedicated decades to community service — as educators, as advocates for the homeless, and in other capacities.
Darnell Wise Lightbourn, 65, also worked for Arlington Public Schools for 35 years. She was a music teacher.
Wise Lightbourn now volunteers with the Opera Guild of Northern Virginia, which promotes opera in the region and nominated her for the Harambee award. She also volunteers with Jack and Jill of America, which provides opportunities for youth to experience the arts.
“I believe that music is the nation's most effective means for fostering understanding,” Wise Lightbourne said. “I got involved in arts as a lifelong experience.”
The 2012 awards will be presented at 11 a.m. Saturday at Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy St.
Winners include Vollin, Lightbourn, Eunice Brown Cobb, Roxie E. Johnson, Louise Hill McGregor, James "Doug" Pelham, Anita Saundra Green, Alfred O. Taylor Jr. and Willie Jackson-Baker. Read the biographies of the winners here.