Melinda Cantu

  • Name
  • Melinda Cantu
  • Title
  • Executive Director
  • Organization
  • SafePlace
  • Years as Executive Director
  • I was named the Executive Director of SafePlace in October 2015.

  • What does your organization do?
  • SafePlace along with our partner organization Austin Children’s Shelter support the SAFE Alliance.

    The SafePlace campus provides Safety for individuals and families affected by sexual and domestic violence; helps victims in their Healing so they can move beyond being defined by the crimes committed against them, and become Survivors; promotes safe and healthy relationships for the Prevention of sexual and domestic violence; and works with others to create Change in attitudes, behaviors and policies that perpetuate the acceptance of, and impact our understanding and responses to, sexual and domestic violence.
  • How did you become interested in this work?
  • I started doing work in sexual and domestic violence in the late 80’s. I also did some work with homeless and runaway youth. I realized my passion included women’s issues as well as advocacy for children. I started as a volunteer for the Austin Rape Crisis Center and then became an intern at the Center for Battered Women. Very quickly after I finished my Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work I knew I needed to get back into the field of violence against women. I was hired in the Children’s program at Center for Battered Women in 1990.
  • What drives your passion?
  • I absolutely believe this is where I need to be, I am so passionate about the work we do, but I am most proud that we do it on multiple levels, intervention, prevention and social change.
  • Did you have a mentor or role model?
  • I have had many mentors in my professional career – I really believe it is important to have mentors and be a mentor (to pass it on) especially in the non-profit sector.
  • What's the biggest challenge in your work?
  • The biggest challenge in my work is balancing multiple priorities gracefully.
  • What's the best advice that you have ever received?
  • I have had some great advice over the years, but I think one of the best pieces is “always check in with yourself, take time to reflect, and support others in doing so as well.”
  • What are your top tips for new Executive Directors?
  • 1. Get a network of support – it is such a BIG help.
    2. Always keep learning, give yourself time to learn, and ask lots of questions.
    3. Work hard and play hard – there is a balance – find yours.

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