Araceli (Celi) Lyon

Araceli Lyon, also known as Celi Lyon, is the daughter of Raúl Cardeńas, who was the founding president of South Mountain Community College (SMCC). Celi is a teacher and an Assistant Principal. She also runs her own business. She saw all the ups and downs that her father had to go through to make SMCC what it is today. Her father gave the people of South Phoenix new opportunities to be successful. To this day she continues to see how impactful and important SMCC is to the community. She is very proud of her father and how far the college has gone, to think it started as a small idea. 

Interview Clip 22:50-29:08—“Founding Father of SMCC”

Celi Lyon was born in July of 1974. Her parents are Alicia and Raul Cardenas. Her mother was a teacher and her father was the founding father of SMCC and later a president of PVCC (Paradise Valley Community College). She was born in El Paso, Texas, but later she and her family moved to Arizona, sometime between 1977and 1978. She spent her childhood in Mesa. 

Interview Clip 2:24-3:20—“Born and Raised” 

She and her family enjoyed summer trips. It didn’t matter where they went as long as they were together. Lyon attended South Mountain Community College her freshman year but later attended NAU. She is married to Scott Lyon, her high school sweetheart. They got married at St. Mary’s Basilica in Phoenix in July of 1998. Celi now has 4 kids with her husband. 

Interview Clip 3:22- 6:29—“Childhood” 

What brought Celi to South Phoenix was her father. Their family lived in Texas for a while. Then they moved to Arizona because of her dad—he was going to be the person who would open up many chances to people. Celi was raised on the SMCC Campus. South Phoenix was pretty empty and the people who lived there didn’t have many opportunities. So, building the college was such a huge accomplishment not only for Raúl Cardeńas but most importantly, for the community. Celi says that SMCC is now the center of South Phoenix.

Interview Clip 19:20 -22:50—”South Phoenix”

Interview Clip 31:17—”Roles SMCC Plays”

Something Celi struggled with was entering kindergarten without her mom holding her hand. Her dad was such an amazing father, but the college always kept him occupied, so, most of the time, he had to miss his kids’ events. However, her mom was always there, but they would still be missing their dad. They also struggled with people looking down at her father as some didn’t want a college in South Phoenix. Many people didn’t think that the college would be useful to the community or of all the opportunities SMCC could bring. Eventually building a college seemed possible. To imagine that the college might have not been there, if it wasn’t for her father not giving up, and for their mother motivating her husband not to give up. 

Interview Clip 29:10—”Resistance on opening SMCC” 

Celi is a strong,independant, admirable woman. She is an amazing example for the future. Overall Celi taught us a lot about the importance of family, the SMCC campus and her father. Celi hopes that in the future the college will continue to perform better than it already does, she also hopes for people to start using the tools that SMCC provides as they helped her a lot when she was a student. Celi wishes everyone the best and inspires others to continue to do great things in life.

NarratorAraceli (Celi) Lyon
BirthdateJuly, 1974
Place of OriginEl Paso, TX
Place of ResidencePrescott, AZ
OccupationTeacher, Assistant Principal, and Business Owner
Interview DateMarch 3, 2022
LocationZoom, Online
Intrerview Conducted ByJulissa Lopez, Crystal Cruz, Evelyn Bojorquez
Story Written ByJulissa Lopez, Crystal Cruz, Evelyn Bojorquez