Coordinator of School Support Services, KHSD
Last Friday night, close to midnight, I received a call from Principal Leo Holland at East Bakersfield High School. My phone was on silent and missed the call, but Mr. Holland called me first thing Saturday to morning to make sure that I knew that former South High School student, Jonathan Garcia, had passed away due to an accident that took place just outside of Arvin. My heart sank and I was visibly shaken after hearing such horrific news. Memories of “Tank” immediately started flooding back to my mind as well as thoughts of South High School.
Jonathan “Tank” Garcia was one of those rare students that educators come across. “Tank” was a Renaissance man who was extremely gifted in many different areas. On the gridiron, “Tank” was a 1st Team All SEYL Nose Guard that dominated the football field and the man in front of him. “Tank” was respected by his players and he lifted the spirits of everyone of his teammates. “Jonathan had a very relaxed and easy going attitude that made practice fun for our team. All kids seemed to gravitate towards him and it didn’t matter where a kid came from, they genuinely enjoyed being around Jonathan,” stated Head Coach Cary Mills. “Jonathan was always laughing and enjoyed life, but on the field he played hard and was extremely tough, “ continues Mills. “Moreover, Jonathan was about giving back. Jonathan wanted to be around our program after he graduated high school so that he could mentor the younger generation about the importance of South High football.” Besides playing football, “Tank” was a four year wrestler for the Rebel Wrestling program.
Jonathan "Tank" Garcia #76 Nose Guard was tough for the South High Rebels
Beyond the gridiron and wrestling room, “Tank” was a gifted vocalist as he was extremely active in the South High choir. As a former Athletic Director at South High School, I remember attending a Pop’s Concert at South High School and being blown away by how incredible “Tank” sounded. Besame Mucho is one of my favorite songs and I think there are few people who can actually sing that ballad and do it justice. Consuelo Velasquez and Diana Krall are among those who are worthy enough to sing this beautiful piece. Add another name to the list - Jonathan “Tank” Garcia. I was simply silent and moved emotionally when I heard “Tank” sing that ballad. The South High choir teacher, Catherine Villarreal states, “I have sang my whole life and have dedicated my life to the art of singing and Jonathan is one of the few students that could hang with me as a singer. He is extremely talented.” At a team building exercise for the South High football team, "Tank" picked up a guitar, strummed the strings, and sang a ballad that left coaches and players silent. "I have never seen that many football players and coaches in awe like that before. Jonathan was amazing," remembers Mills. Beyond his vocal abilities, Jonathan stood out in other ways in choir. “Jonathan was such a sincere, genuine, and loving gentleman. When we were in need of a President for our choir, Jonathan stepped up to the challenge and showed that Rebel Spirit. He wanted to learn as much as possible and whenever he had a goal, he went after it. Jonathan cared about other people and was always willing to help,” continues Villarreal, “There aren’t enough words to describe the impact Jonathan had on our choir program.”
Jonathan "Tank" Garcia singing the National Anthem for the South High School JROTC
at the 2016 KHSD PEAAK Awards (Video used with permission from BVarsity Live)
With his busy schedule in sports and vocal arrangements, “Tank” was also very active in South High’s JROTC. “Tank” was described by Sargent Greg Underwood as a “charismatic leader and person.” Underwood states, “Everyone wanted to follow Jonathan and he had the natural ability to motivate other students to accomplish a wide variety of tasks.” Beyond his leadership in JROTC, his good nature won favor with Underwood. “My wife and I adopt greyhounds after their racing days are over and train them how to function in the real world. At any given time we have about 3-4 dogs at the house. One time, my wife and I had to leave out of town and she began to panic about who was going to watch the dogs. I had Jonathan in mind. I went up to Jonathan and asked if he was interested and he asked, ‘You want me to watch your dogs?’ I said ‘Yes.’ He asked, ‘Do I stay at your house?’ I again said, ‘Yes.’ He asked, ‘Do you I eat your food?’ With a chuckle, I said, ‘Yes.’ His mother allowed him to watch our dogs and our dogs fell in love with Jonathan. If the dogs liked him, then Jonathan must be a good guy.”
Beyond his leadership, Jonathan excelled in the classroom as he was in a number of College Prep, GATE, and Advanced Placement classes. Jonathan worked hard in the classroom, but like he displayed in sports, choir, and JROTC, he genuinely cared about others. Paul Mitts, who taught Jonathan Garcia when he was in 10th grade GATE English and in 12th Grade AP Literature states, “Jonathan was more aware than other students. Sometimes students get locked in their own bubble, but Jonathan wasn’t. He was always aware of other students, while at the same time being unaware of himself. Jonathan was exceptionally talented in a lot of different areas - a true Renaissance man. Jonathan was humble as nothing was ever about him, but about others. He often focused on how he could improve the classroom, not how the classroom can improve him. In the most simplest statement I can make, Jonathan Garcia was the essence of good.”
Jonathan "Tank" Garcia proudly wore his South High School lettermen's jacket often because he loved South High.
Jonathan Garcia was good. I loved being his Athletic Director and walking down the hallways, say a little joke to him, and hear his infectious laugh. He was always so respectful, addressing every adult he encountered with a “Mr.” “Ms.” or “Mrs.” Nothing was ever about him and he saw the bigger picture in life. Jonathan loved South High School. My favorite picture of him is his senior picture because he is donning a South High lettermen’s jacket. I remember him first getting that jacket and wearing it with such pride in his school. Jonathan focused his energy on being good to people and caring for South High School. Last year in the second round of playoffs, I went to the South High football game and through his muddy and sweaty uniform, “Tank” gave me a big hug and told me that he missed at South High. Now it’s my turn to tell Jonathan that I miss him at South High and that he was taken away from this earth far too early.
On Thursday at the Frosh Soph football game, jerseys were worn and the field was painted to remember Jonathan "Tank" Garcia.
At South High, the campus is decorated with signs promoting their slogan, “Rebels Do It R.I.G.H.T” Respect Integrity Goals Heart Tradition. Jonathan Garcia was one Rebel who always did it RIGHT and inspired all of those he came into contact with on a daily basis.
At South High School the motto is "Rebels Do It RIGHT" and Jonathan "Tank" Garcia was a Rebel Who Did It Right.