Melinda Cantu

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  • Name

    Melinda Cantu
  • Title

    Executive Director
  • Organization Name

    SafePlace
  • Number of 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 a 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.