A high school with a rich history that spans 125 years and has artists, professional athletes and politicians as alumni must have an association dedicated to them, right?
No, until recently. The group will make its debut this Saturday at the Kern County Museum.
One of Bakersfield High School Principal David Reese's bucket list items before his retirement at the end of the school year has been to create an alumni association. As a former history teacher, he has enjoyed learning about the school's past and felt others would want to know more about it as well.
"You'd move something and discover pictures from the past," he said. "I felt a responsibility to leave something behind."
One of the people he recruited for the task was Jenny Rous, president of the Parent Teacher Student Organization and class of 1988 alumna. She and other PTSO members came into Reese's office after he announced his retirement in December and asked what they could do to help him accomplish his final goals.
When the idea for the alumni association came up, they were all on board.
"We have really no way to connect unless you have Facebook friends or you have people that you’re still in contact with from high school," she said. "Considering that we have 125 years of graduates, that’s shocking that no one has thought to do it."
Since that meeting, Rous, alumni association President Keri Gless and others have been hard at work putting together a website and social media accounts where people can learn more about the group and become a member for $25. More information can be found at http://bakersfieldalumni.org.
But just creating the association was one piece of the puzzle. Reese's bucket list also included completing the area surrounding the school's historic water tower, which now sits at the Kern County Museum, into a BHS Alumni Plaza.
The water tower was built in 1933 and was originally used to increase the water pressure and irrigate the campus, according to the BHS website. For people who attended the school, it became a symbol of Driller pride.
"It was something you passed by walking to the gym, something you can always see," Rous said. "There were rival schools that would climb up and tag it, and it would have to be painted over. We were proud of it."
It failed to meet current building codes once the Griffith Field renovation project began, so it had to be moved in August 2016 to the Kern County Museum.
"I promised my alumni when I moved the water tower I would take good care of it," Reese said. "Once we got it out, we wanted to give it the landscaping and wanted to paint all the different logos that have been on the tower."
Work on the plaza began in mid- to late-January with a goal of raising $30,000. About $5,000 would go toward restoring the water tower, and the rest going toward landscaping, cementing, electrical work and irrigation. As of Tuesday, the group was $5,000 short of its goal.
All money raised after the association reaches its $30,000 goal will go toward supporting different areas of student life.
The space and BHS Alumni Association will make its debut this Saturday for an all-alumni bash. Tickets, which include dinner, are $60 per person and available at Bakersfield.KernHigh.org or calling 661-345-8335.
"I’m excited to see people I’ve spoken with on the phone and share what we’ve accomplish," Rous said about the event.
Looking toward the future, Rous said she is excited for the alumni association to host tailgates, reunions and other event at the space. It will also create a Driller Hall of Fame that honors alumni of all fields who have gone on to do great things.
The PTSO will also be gifting each senior a four-year membership to the association.
As his tenure comes to an end, Reese credits Kern High School District's superintendent and the Board of Trustees and, of course, the BHS Alumni Association for their support in making his final goals come to life.
"It’s nice to see things happen that I’ve been looking forward to."