Rifle High senior gets appointment to Annapolis | PostIndependent.com

Rifle High senior gets appointment to Annapolis

John GardnerGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kelley Cox

RIFLE – Samantha Blea’s grandfather, Solomon Blea, served in the U.S. Navy on the U.S.S. Santa Fe during World War II. He passed away about two years ago. But Samantha has some fond memories of him.When she was in the fourth grade, her grandfather gave her a picture of the famous warship he was stationed on. The picture was of the painted stars on the ship’s side wall indicating the enemy ships it had sunk during the war.That wasn’t so long ago, but she remembers the importance of the picture.She spoke of the honor and integrity that her grandfather displayed as having served in the United States Navy. That’s why she wanted to enlist in the Navy, too.”I didn’t know what I wanted to do at that point,” Samantha said of when she received the photo. “But things have always pointed in the direction of the Navy.”Samantha has always wanted to go to medical school. She didn’t consider applying to a service academy until the summer before her junior year at Rifle High School, when she was contacted by the Air Force.At that point, she was still only thinking about medical school.”When they called I just said that I wasn’t interested,” Samantha said.But when the Navy contacted her and said that she could qualify for the nuclear engineering program, well, that lifted her eyebrows.

“That’s when I started considering the Navy,” she admitted. “There’s something interesting about the whole Navy thing.”Last summer, the summer before her senior year, she found out that she qualified for the Naval Academy and applied.She didn’t get her hopes up.”I applied because if it did happen, it would be a good thing,” she said. “But if not, then, oh well.”Now that she’s received an offer of appointment and is guaranteed a spot in the prestigious service academy, she might as well go. And as the deadline for finding out drew closer, her eyebrows kept rising in anticipation.”It’s one of those big dreams that has paid off,” she said. “I was kind of nervous waiting for the letter; it was nerve-wracking.”Just after Christmas break this year she received the first letter stating that she had a shot at acceptance into the academy. That’s when things got really interesting.”It was kind of a lengthy interview,” she said. “But I learned a lot about myself through the process.”Then more waiting.

One day in February the waiting was over.Her mother, Janet, found the large manila envelope in the mail. The return address read Annapolis, Md. It didn’t take long before she was overcome by tears.Samantha said that her mom went directly to the school and interrupted track practice. RHS track coach Jerry Shafer gathered the girls in the gym. Samantha was scared that her mom came with bad news.”He (Shafer) read the letter to the whole team,” Samantha said. “It was one of the moments in your life when everything you’ve worked for has finally paid off.”On May 20, Samantha, who is also the RHS student body vice president, will graduate from high school and will also receive her associate degree from Colorado Mountain College in general science. After that it’s on to the U.S. Naval Academy, where she has to report on June 27.”I’m going to have a short summer,” she said. “But it will pay off in the end.”She’s changed her major from nuclear engineering to chemistry. She still wants to go to medical school and has hopes of becoming a doctor some day.Blea made a point to recognize the people in her life that had made the whole story possible. Her parents, Janet and Leo; her younger sister, Jennifer, a freshmen at RHS; her grandparents Al and Mildred Arnold of Rifle; and grandmother Mary Louise Blea of Antonito.And of course, the one who planted the seed of inspiration and direction a very long time ago, her late-grandfather Solomon.

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114jgardner@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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