Helen Arnold

Photo of Helen Arnold
  • Brotherhood Award, South Bend-Mishawaka chapter National Conference of Christians and Jews
  • Field Director, Girl Scouts of Northern Indiana
  • Vice President, Region III Girl Scouts Professional Workers
  • Thanks Badge from the Girl Scouts of America
  • Board member, YMCA
  • Mayor’s committee on Human Relations
  • Education Committee, NAACP
  • Member, Saint Augustine Catholic Church
  • Member, Indiana Catholic Advisory Board
  • Principal of Whitney Young Alternative High School (formerly The Street Academy)

“I grew up in a separate society.”

            Helen Arnold said of herself, “my ancestors were American Indian, German, Irish, and African. But anyone can tell by just looking at me that I am more truly American than I am any of these.” However, growing up as a young girl before the Civil Rights era, Helen’s identity was always reduced to her African heritage, “because of my African ancestors, my birth certificate, school records, driver’s license, marriage license, government papers all identify me as Negro. And because I am labeled Negro, I grew up in a separate society…I went to separate schools, and separate Christian churches. I lived in separate neighborhoods and joined separate clubs.”

As a young girl, Helen questioned her separate status, “my mother answered me gently, ‘but honey, they don’t love you there and no teacher can really teach children unless she loves them.’” This early lesson continued in college when she first learned “that many men and women with black skins had made great contributions to America.” In talking to her peers she was surprised to find that “most of them had never read anything good about Negroes, and had not known or even spoken to a black person in their lives. They had expected us to be dirty and dishonest, with a switchblade in our pockets.”

Instead of being deterred by these early lessons, Helen dedicated her life to teaching others how to make connections. She lived by the principles of honor and virtue. She worked as a teacher and in the Girl Scouts to help improve interracial and interreligious understanding in order to promote greater understanding of others’ perspectives with a goal of improving the lives of all members of society. Her goal was to find ways to “unify as a group to attain power, to achieve our goals, to really have a say in the policy-making areas that will affect our lives as citizens.”

Information compiled from various South Bend Tribune articles

Helen was a 2017 CMWL honoree.