A longstanding pillar of the Bakersfield community, Garces continues their work of educating youth to fulfill
the mission of Christ.
Garces Memorial High School traces its origins back to the earliest days of Catholic education in Kern County. In 1910, the Sisters of Mercy founded St. Francis Elementary School in the basement of St. Francis Church and in 1926, a new two-story school building was built next to the convent.
With attendance rising, it was decided that a high school should be added to the premises. In 1940, eight girls started in the first freshman class and over the next four years, the school became fully functioning with boys enrolling, and finally, their first graduating class. The Dominican Sisters’ Congregation of St. Thomas Aquinas replaced the Sisters of Mercy as administrators of the school, which now had a record enrollment of forty girls and ten boys.
In October of 1944 Monsignor Culleton, Chancellor of the Monterey-Fresno Diocese, visited the Sisters and spoke of the need for a central Catholic high school serving all of Bakersfield, and decided to purchase land to bring this dream to life. On June 28, 1945, the Kern County Land Company “sold” a 40-acre plot in the northeast for a grand sum of five dollars.
The school was named after Padre Francisco Garces, who once camped near the present site of the campus during his historic trek to spread the Catholic faith. In spring 1947 ground was broken and in the fall Garces Memorial High School opened with an enrollment of 150 students. The student population expanded during the 50s to over 400.
The school came under the direct supervision of the Fresno Diocesan Office of Education in July 1968. Shortly after, it became co-educational with one faculty, one program of studies, and one set of policies. Garces was administered by the Dominican Sisters until the beginning of the 1978-79 school year when lay administrators began governing the school.
In the years since, the campus has continued to develop, with a cutting-edge science facility, remodeled St. Dominic Chapel, and expansion of their successful athletic programs. Most recently, a music facility and dance studio were built, and the library has been transformed into the state-of-the-art Mengha Sanghera Collaborative Learning Center. These advances have only been possible through the extraordinary generosity of the local Catholic community.
While the campus looks very different from the original plant, the desire to raise up youth to fulfill the mission of Christ continues to guide the school today. “We’re always continuing to grow spiritually and in the faith, and we’re always working to keep our students interested and moving forward,” shared Director of Public Relations Ashleigh Rossi.
Out of 40-acres of barren soil, Garces has grown into one of the finest educational institutions in the Central Valley with 545 students. A hundred percent of its graduates have gone on to higher education, some to national and even international acclaim in their fields. The school stands today as a testament to the good padre’s devotion and vision. Still firmly rooted in his Catholic faith, Garces Memorial High School carries on his mission into the 21st Century.
2800 Loma Linda Drive, Bakersfield CA | 661-327-2578