Sylvia Villaverde is a longtime staff member and supporter of South Mountain Community College.
Sylvia Villaverde has lived in South Phoenix her whole life. She was born and raised in the South Mountain area. Sylvia’s humble parents provided a beautiful childhood for her and her siblings filled with fond memories. One of Sylvia’s favorite memories was swimming in the canal. The walls of the canal at this time were made only of dirt. One time, when Sylvia was about 12 years old, she came down with a summer cold. As she sat and watched her family swim in the canal, her father came over and gave her a little push. She quietly turned around and said, “Do that again!” And sure enough she “flopped” into the water.
Villaverde began her journey at South Mountain Community College at the age of 30 as a student. She later became a member of the staff. At this time, she was raising her children, active in church life and started her college education while playing sports. As an accomplished athlete, Villaverde had a great love for softball. When she enrolled at SMCC she learned that they did not have a softball program. Being the proactive individual that she is, Villaverde brought this to the attention of Greg Medrano, the Athletic Director. Medrano told her, “You are welcome to recruit a team.” Medrano offered to order the equipment once the team had enough players. Her first team disintegrated after the first semester, but the ever-persistent Villaverde recruited a new team all over again.
After Villaverde was hired at SMCC, she unfortunately experienced negative comments and rumors from fellow staff regarding how she acquired her position. Some people were under the impression that she was hired not because of her talent and ability, but because of who she knew. She refused to allow the gossip to get in her way. She became an important part of SMCC, serving the campus for decades. She was so committed that even after retirement, she came back six more times between 2012-2019.
Villaverde felt like at South Mountain Community College, she was among family. The small campus felt like home to her. She remembers when Betty Elliot, director of student life and leadership at SMCC, would decorate the school cafeteria for Christmas. Elliot completely overwhelmed the cafeteria from ceiling to the floor with Christmas Spirit. This was by far her fondest memory at SMCC. Villaverde’s family life was a reality at South Mountain Community College. Her daughter, also a longtime staff member, Lorrie Shelton became a student in the late 1980s and continues to work on campus.
Villaverde has high hopes for the future of SMCC. She thinks that the campus has a lot of potential to serve students in need.
Student Researchers: Gabriel DeMark & Grace McQuillin, Fall 2019