When she walks across the stage at graduation next May, Samantha Bivins is determined to leave a legacy at UNLV.
The 42-year-old said UNLV opened her eyes to so many possibilities and passions that it seemed only fair that she give back to the institution.
And given back she has. The single mother of four serves in CSUN as a senator representing the College of Liberal Arts and is involved in too many organizations — both on- and off-campus — to list.
But, she hasn’t done it alone. Her children, who now range in age from 8 to 21 — and include UNLV freshman Ashleigh Bivins — have volunteered alongside her, making sandwiches for the homeless, delivering food to the needy, and stocking shelves at the UNLV Cares Food Pantry. (Samantha is co-head of operations at the food pantry.)
Involving her children in many of the volunteer activities was borne partially of necessity — Samantha didn’t want to leave them home alone — and partially from her belief that volunteering would provide valuable life lessons.
“I was able to spend time with them while teaching them about at-risk populations who weren’t as fortunate as we are,” the psychology major said. “These projects taught us many, many lessons about being charitable and compassionate and instilled a passion in all of us to help others and create a better community.”
The family has been involved in UNLVolunteers programs, with Samantha serving as the coordinator for its hunger and homelessness programs and its Delivering and Serving Hope program, better known as DASH. They also donate time to Heaven Can Wait, Toys for Tots, Catholic Charities, Three Square, and Opportunity Village.
When Samantha served as vice president of fellowship with the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, the family worked with the Nevada Coalition for Suicide Prevention, The Bridge assisted living community, the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, and Veterans Village.
Additionally, when she was president of the UNLV's Student Organization of Addiction Professionals (SOAP), they participated in events related to the prevention and treatment of addictions. The 312 service hours SOAP donated during the 12-month period ending March 31 earned it a Presidential Volunteer Service Award from President Barack Obama. A total of 112 of those hours were donated by Samantha, garnering her an individual award as well.
Samantha, who chairs CSUN's Health and Safety Committee, successfully sponsored a proposal to use $250,000 of CSUN's operational budget to upgrade the emergency phone system on campus.
The Bivins Bunch
In addition to Samantha, the Bivins family includes:
- 21-year-old Craig Jr. Planning to return to UNLV in the spring, the Coronado High School graduate currently is taking a break from his engineering studies while working as a valet at the Venetian.
- the aforementioned Ashleigh, 18, who also is a graduate of Coronado and plans to major in business administration. She works on campus as a Rebel recruiter with the office of admissions, is a CSUN legislative intern for the Lee Business School, and is a new member of Gamma Phi Beta sorority. (Samantha is a founding member of UNLV's Gamma Phi chapter, which was created in spring 2016.)
- 16-year-old Benjamin, who is studying online this year, but plans to return to Coronado next fall and is a member of the Civil Air Patrol.
- 8-year-old Jager, who is a third-grader at Hummel Elementary School.
Samantha was 29 when her husband, Craig, a Marine Corps veteran, died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 33. The couple’s children were 9-, 5-, and 4-years old. In 2008, her youngest child, Jager, was born.
“My family and I have faced a multitude of challenges. These challenges have grown all of us as individuals and have made us exceptionally close,” she said. “Through all of my professional and educational endeavors and all of my personal and physical struggles, my children have been my strongest supporters and I have been theirs."
Samantha said she views a family as being like a single body. “In order for that body to function properly, every part must be working. My kids have kept our body, our family, functioning while I have been away from the home. They have cooked, cleaned, babysat, and given up their time with their friends and in sports to support my goals and dreams.
“Through my mental exhaustion and physical limitations, they have filled in the gaps and been the ones who gave me the strength to persevere,” she said. “I also believe that seeing me succeed and achieve has created a deep desire in them to work hard and get a college degree as they’ve gotten older.”
That makes being chosen as the 2016 Honorary Rebel Family special, Bivins said, adding, “I do believe in UNLV. Once I got to school I saw all these other possibilities (in addition to studies) of things you can do that I think can spark a passion and that’s what happened to me. I decided I wanted to leave a legacy that people could see after I was gone.
“When the Bivins family leaves UNLV, future students won’t just hear about the changes we made at UNLV, they will see them.”