The first high school in Florida named after a gay man, Dr. Joaquín García High School, opened its doors last week for the first time. With over 1,600 students in attendance, this school stands among a handful of schools nationwide named in honor of LGBTQ people.
The school is located in western Lake Worth Beach and is part of the Palm Beach County School District. The school provides specialty medical, business and IT programs and includes a performing arts center and an impressive sports complex. At a cost of over $100 million, the school honors the decades-long work of Dr. Garcia. Dr. Garcia and his husband, Dr. Xavier Garcia, ran the El Cid Animal Clinic in West Palm Beach for decades. Dr. Garcia passed away in 2021.
In a press release issued by the Palm Beach County Human Right Council, President and founder and retired Judge Rand Hoch said, “Joaquín García was a passionate and inspirational advocate for all students in PBC schools.”
Dr. Garcia was a change maker in the community. He was a founding member of the Board of Directors for Compass Community Center, Palm Beach County’s only LGBTQ+ Community Center. He also did extensive volunteer work for the International AIDS Education Foundation, as well as the Palm Beach County Homeless Coalition.
“PBC is rich in its diversity, and we have a significant LGBTQ+ population,” said Alexandria Ayala, PBC’s first elected Hispanic/Latina School Board Member and outspoken advocate for LGBTQ students. “We were proud to know he was involved in the creation of Compass … and at no point did Joaquín’s sexual orientation prevent us from honoring him and his legacy.”
“Joaquín García exemplified leadership and was a truly inspirational advocate and a role model for LGBTQ+ youth,” said Julie Seaver, Executive Director of Compass Community Center.
Advocates are cautious as to how Dr. Garcia’s legacy will be honored by the school. While the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation applies to kindergarten through eighth grade, many high schools are not discussing sexuality or sexual identity to avoid the ire of anti-LGBTQ+ zealots. Dr. Garcia is also the first Hispanic man in PBC to have a school named in his honor. His work for both the LGBTQ community and the Hispanic community is being honored in the naming of this school.