DC Virgo Principal Sabrina Hill-Black poses at her school

February 21, 2022

Sabrina Hill-Black loved to play school as a child, but never saw herself as an educator. Her favorite Sunday school teacher, Edward Todd, convinced Hill-Black otherwise.

From her Sunday school days to the time Hill-Black began her undergraduate studies in psychology at N.C. Central University, Todd encouraged her to pursue teaching. After much thought, Hill-Black changed her major and later started a career that would affect hundreds of children in New Hanover County Schools.

“He continued to push me to think about the impact teaching has on children and the opportunities I could provide them as a Black woman,” Hill-Black recalled. “Unbeknownst to me, I would continue the journey with so many students.”

Hill-Black is the principal at D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy, a K-8 school that opened in partnership with UNCW in July 2018. D.C. Virgo serves nearly 200 students in downtown Wilmington; Hill-Black was named principal in 2016 before D.C. Virgo transitioned to a lab school. She said that the late Dorothy S. DeShields, an educational leader in Wilmington, saw her potential as an administrator and encouraged her to seek a leadership role.

“For years, I would tell her I just wanted to stay there in my classroom and love my students,” said Hill-Black. “She would continue to push me to ‘spread that love throughout a building and think about the impact you can have on a school.’”

D.C. Virgo’s partnership with UNCW is unique and speaks to opportunities for innovation and collaboration, said Hill-Black, a Wilmington native.

“Opening a school under the leadership of the university while partnering with the local New Hanover County School district has allowed me, and others, to live and experience all standards of school leadership while working to create a special learning environment,” Hill-Black said. “University partnerships continue to expand beyond the Watson College of Education, as that has been a goal. It’s important to continue to provide opportunities for students and professors to engage in experiential learning alongside D.C. Virgo’s teachers and students.”

What brings joy to Hill-Black is seeing the wonder in students’ eyes as they learn from their teachers and volunteers, the accolades teachers receive for their work, the community support for D.C. Virgo teachers and students, and the opportunities to expand access for students.

“I hope students recognize the opportunities for access we strive to provide,” said Hill-Black. “I want students to remember the unique experiences afforded them. If I had to hope for a personal impact on students, I would hope they would be able to recognize my commitment to them through my dedication to them in the collective work of our school community.”

-- Venita Jenkins