While some members of the class of 2019 still may be unsure of where they want to go after high school graduation, Blake Settje has long had a plan.

The Cabrillo High School senior said it was before his freshman year on the Vandenberg Village campus that he approached his dad, a lieutenant colonel in the Army, and told him that he wanted to follow in his footsteps and strive to become an officer in the Army.

“[My dad] was like, ‘If you want to be an officer, you should try to be the best of the best and try to go to a service academy,’” Settje said in one of his final days as a high-schooler. “That’s when he told me about West Point, and I just started doing all the things I needed to go to West Point.”

After four years of work, Settje is now set to realize that goal.

When Cabrillo High School holds its graduation ceremony at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, June 6, it will mark the end of one chapter for Settje and usher in another that will take him across the country to formally begin his service career at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.

“He’s getting to go to his ‘dream school,’” said Jeanne Piper, a Cabrillo High teacher who also helps coordinate the school’s AVID program, which aims to prepare students for college.

“He had a goal that he wanted and he worked for it all four years of high school,” she said. “He took the challenging courses, he put in the time and the effort, and he did the outside work in the community, as well.”

Gaining admission to West Point was no small task.

In addition to his coursework and community service, Settje also needed multiple teachers from various disciplines to answer questions about him, and to get at least two of those teachers to write letters of recommendation for him.

Beyond that, he also needed a nomination from a U.S. senator or member of Congress, a hurdle he cleared when he was nominated by Congressman Salud Carbajal, a Santa Barbara Democrat who represents California’s 24th District.

Settje, who was also a three-year varsity player on the Cabrillo High football team, said it was during last winter break that he got the news he had been waiting for.

“I was just on the couch chilling and I got a phone call from Salud Carbajal, and he tells me that I got accepted into West Point, and he congratulated me,” said Settje, whose community service included volunteering with the Santa Barbara County Veterans Stand Down event in Santa Maria. “It was pretty exciting.”

Settje noted that he already has an idea of what to expect when he gets to New York this summer.

He previously participated in a weeklong session at the academy designed to introduce incoming cadets to the West Point lifestyle.

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“The first day they yell at you and tell you to do stuff and you wake up early in the morning to do [physical training] and you go take classes like you would at West Point,” he said. “It’s a cool experience to see if this is something you want to pursue.”

He noted the rigors of that introductory week didn’t deter him.

He also credited his father with helping to prepare him for what’s ahead.

“He gave a lot of insight on what to do and what not to do,” Settje said of his dad, who is stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base. “He’s also given me a lot of advice, even if it’s just simple obvious stuff like keep your grades up while you’re in college to actual military lessons on what to do and insight into what each job [in the Army] kind of does.”

Settje was born on a military base in Wyoming before arriving in the Lompoc Valley for his second- through fourth-grade years.

He then moved with his family to Fort Riley, Kansas, which is where he spent his fifth-grade year before moving back to the Lompoc area.

He said he has enjoyed his experiences in Lompoc, and noted some of the mundane, everyday things are what he will always keep with him.

“Just hanging out with friends and stuff like that,” he said of his fondest high school memories. “I think the little, simple things will be what I miss the most.”

Piper, who was among the teachers to write letters of recommendation for Settje to get into West Point, said she expects Settje will continue to excel on his post-high school path.

“I’m confident, especially with his track record over the past four years,” she said. “I’ve seen him grow and mature and reach his goal that he set out for himself, so I think he’ll continue to do that.”

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.



Willis Jacobson covers news and other issues, primarily those that affect the Lompoc Valley and Vandenberg Air Force Base, for Lee Central Coast News. He is a graduate of The University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications.