Academy-Sponsors-Spring2017-300x225Activism is often recognized as a person who leads marches with a megaphone, usually echoed by large crowds who look to them to guide them to liberation and prosperity. Despite this inescapable image of a leader or activist, there are many unsung heroes among us who do amazing work for their community.

“My activism has really been my work, I don’t expect anything in return. It seems very natural and it keeps me happy and motivated,” she tells Madison365. Samantha Arriozola is a prime example of grassroots activist who dedicates herself to her community and its progress.

Arriozola, a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in English and Creative Writing, has spent the majority of her time perfecting her art and sharing her knowledge with youth in the greater Madison community. Most of her time is split between working as a teaching artist and working out external affairs for UW’s food pantry, The Open Seat.

“My passion and care for what I’m doing doesn’t need to be compartmentalized into big showcased action,” Arriozola says. “I have to do this work for myself. I don’t expect anything in return.”

As a member of the First Wave Urban Arts Community, which prides itself on pillars of activism, academics and arts, Arriozola has taken all three pillars in stride. Through her ongoing work with the JVN Project, a nonprofit organization that uses hip-hop for social change, named in honor of John Vietnam Nguyen, a First Wave scholar and hip-hop artist who died in Lake Mendota in 2012. Arriozola has put her major and art to use as a One Life Spoken Word Workshop facilitator for high school students in the Madison community. Since her first year at UW-Madison, she has escalated from being a One Life Workshop facilitator to the Youth Programming Director for the JVN Project.

Arriozola, who is a Des Plaines, Illinois native, has dedicated herself to the Madison community, its youth and its upward mobility. She has invested herself in not only the UW-Madison campus but the broader community. Aside from being a teaching artist, Arriozola has also committed her time to building a structure for an on-campus food pantry called Open Seat. During her freshman year in Spring 2015, Associated Students of Madison made a decision to allocate student segregated fees to a food pantry. After applying, she was tasked with foundation of the pantry. Arriozola grew up using food pantries from time to time, and she felt this work was necessary for her to give back the way someone once gave to her.

“Food pantries are not a nuanced thing and they are very common. As a student there is no really why you shouldn’t be allowed access to food,” she explains.

The pantry continues to grow and evolve. “We don’t advertise ourselves as a resource of saviors, we aren’t here to help you, but to allow people to come help themselves,” Arriozola says. “The JVN project and Open seat have really shaped me into the person I want to become.”

Her activism is quite unique and has helped many students of all ages around the city of Madison. She is passionate about food security and teaching youth about how to use Hip-Hop and writing as a tool for community uplift and youth development.

“It’s easy to lose yourself in the I’m not doing enough mode…If you’re really passionate about something in activism or art, then that’s a sign that you are really committed to your work,” she says. She also stresses that she doesn’t care for her name to be branded to the Open Seat or the JVN Project because she wants these organizations to sustain and grow beyond her time in Madison.

“Now that what I came here to accomplish is done, I can step back and let others take over,” she explains.

This piece was produced by a student in the Madison365 Academy. To learn more or support our education programs, visit

Written by Kynala Phillips

Kynala Phillips

Kynala is a Black girl enthusiast and a Journalism and Mass Communication student at UW-Madison.