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Meet Trailblazer Samantha Calvillo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Samantha Calvillo.

Samantha, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am originally from a small town in Central California called Dinuba were receiving higher education is not common, and rarely expected. Due to various difficult personal experiences, I realized that I wanted to spend my life serving others. I went to a community college in Reedley, CA then transferred to a CSU in the Bay Area to obtain my bachelor’s degree in Sociology. I was determined to help my community through the use of research, but I was immediately dissatisfied with the lack of community engagement involved. It was at this time that I discovered the field of social work and realized just how much I could do with a Masters degree in social work. I got into UCLA’s MSW program in 2017 and made the move to Southern California. While in the program, I explored my passion for working with individuals who are involved in the criminal justice system, struggling with substance use issues, and individuals experiencing homelessness. While in UCLA’s 2-year program, I had the privilege of providing therapy and case management services at a non-profit serving formerly incarcerated adults, and providing crisis intervention and social services to patients at UCLA Medical Center. I graduated with my MSW June 2019 and am now working as a Clinical Social Worker in the emergency department at UCLA Medical Center.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I have faced many struggles on the journey to where I am. Being the oldest of five in a Mexican family made it very difficult for me to make the move across the state. My parent’s divorce and the care needed by my disabled sister made it hard for me to leave my responsibilities and pursue self-growth alone. Living with anxiety also made it increasingly difficult because I moved away from all my friends and family, creating an intense feeling of loneliness and fear. Not to mention the financial struggles of being a full-time student. My advice to young women in this situation is to put yourself first, as selfish as that may sound. You cannot let love, loneliness, or comfort hold you back from being who you truly want to be.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I recently began working at UCLA Medical Center as a clinical social worker in the emergency department. This work requires quick thinking, problem-solving skills, and a lot of patience. I deal with patients experiencing homelessness, facing severe mental health issues, facing the death of a loved one, various forms of abuse, and much more. I love the variety that this department offers and I genuinely feel that I am using every skill I was taught in school during every shift. I am proud of UCLA for the resources we have to offer to our patients. Very few organizations provide as much financial, and full circle assistance as we do. I like to think that my compassion and curiosity sets me apart from others and puts me in a position to grow in my field and my department.

Do you feel like there was something about the experiences you had growing up that played an outsized role in setting you up for success later in life?
Growing up, my family struggled financially for many years, but I never realized it until adulthood. My father did everything he could to make sure we always had a roof over our head and food to eat. This strong work ethic and determination to succeed in life is something I have always carried with me. I was raised to give to others even if all I had was a dollar in my pocket, and to never judge what others are going through. I also grew up with a severely disabled sister which exposed me to the world of social services in both great, and disappointing ways. I saw just how much the compassion and hard work of case manager or social worker can impact a family, and saw how much damage those same people can create. Everything I have and everything I am is due to the way I was raised, and the love given to me by my family. I did not come from money, and I did not come from an educated family, but I did come from a family with a big heart and a strong work ethic, which in my opinion, is the recipe for success.


  • cost of an MSW at UCLA: $40,000

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1 Comment

  1. Valerie

    September 25, 2019 at 15:30

    Congratulations Samantha, and thank you for sharing your story, you are an inspiration and a really wonderful person. UCLA is lucky to have you!

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