Ariana Cantu identifies as a queer, Latinx woman and has spent 24 years as an organizer and social work practitioner, working alongside diverse populations to address issues of inequity, lack of access to basic needs, homelessness, and poverty. She is guided by a community-centered ethic, both for the profession in social justice work and in the classroom, to be engaged in activities that lead to the collective liberation of us all. Her role as an Instructor is to prepare students for leadership and adaptability through present moment challenges by cultivating their strengths through an iterative learning environment that links theory to social justice practice in the field. She worked in direct counseling practice with youth and adults experiencing homelessness, later in homeless prevention and managing a County-wide eviction and mortgage assistance program and in leadership supporting the development of permanent, supportive housing for low-income communities. She spent several years working in the community and technical college setting, first supporting students with disabilities and training faculty and staff on ADA compliance, then later as the Director of TRIO and Project Finish Line, a Gates-funded program to support student degree attainment. Additionally, she created and supported the colleges Re-Entry Program for formerly incarcerated individuals who wanted to obtain their degrees. She was also the Director of Health Access for all YWCA Seattle-King-Snohomish County programs. She has operated her own consulting business for 7 years in organizational development through a critical race & social justice lens, and works part-time teaching English at Olympic College, the local community and technical college in Bremerton.
Ms. Cantu has decades of community organizing and legislative advocacy experience and utilizes those skills in the classroom to prepare students for the complex needs of communities, non-profit organizations, and public entities. She lives in Bremerton, on the Kitsap Peninsula, with her two dogs and her wife, who is also an Instructor in the College of Built Environments at the UW. We teach an interdisciplinary course on gentrification and its impact on communities in the Spring.
Among the organizations to which Ms. Cantu belongs are the League of Women Voters Kitsap County, where she plays a leadership role in the Housing Committee and bringing educational forums on housing issues to the area; and KAIRE, a grassroots organization supporting Kitsap Immigrants in obtaining legal, financial and other supports to live and work free from oppression and police abuse. Ms. Cantu co-leads the Campaign Committee, working on advocacy issues pertaining to workers rights and protections for immigrant communities in Kitsap County.