Elise Cantu, a five-sport varsity athlete at Gill St. Bernard’s School, wants to fly.
By balancing a rigorous academic curriculum at the private school in Gladstone with her surplus of sports, she has worked to become a well-rounded person.
Her ambition is to become a pilot.
The first step toward her goal is to attend the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.
“I always knew I wanted to be in the military,” said Elise, who lives in Lafayette with her parents and four siblings.
Originally, she wanted to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. But when she enrolled in the Coast Guard Academy’s summer Academy Introduction Mission program, she “fell in love” with that service instead.
The program threw her into life in the Coast Guard, where she interacted with her peers in a “day in the life” format that involved team building.
Her commitment to serving her country did not begin there.
“My dad is in the Navy, so I grew up being surrounded by the military,” she said.
Her father influenced her as did her passion for travel. The Coast Guard presents an opportunity for Elise to expand her horizons.
Raised in Rhode Island, then in Sussex County, she already has explored a sliver of the East Coast.
After attending High Point Regional High School for two years, she transferred to Gill St. Bernard’s, which is nearly an hour from her home.
Her goal of receiving a challenging and prestigious education paired with her natural talent for softball granted her a valuable opportunity to fulfill her dreams.
“(Gill St. Bernard’s) treats each student as an individual,” she said.
With only 84 people in her class, Elise found a sense of community that can’t be found in a public school.
She was involved in the Student Council, public speaking clubs and her sports: winter track, ice hockey, cross country, softball and soccer.
Her athletic capability did not go unnoticed.
The U.S. Naval Academy asked her to play club softball, and Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-5, nominated her for Annapolis.
But she chose the Coast Guard Academy after she was recruited to play NCAA softball there.
The application process included essays, letters of recommendation and a military test.
Elise envisions going to flight school in Florida. Her goal is to be a helicopter pilot on a search-and-rescue team.
Her back-up plan: Pursuing drug interdiction in the Caribbean.
She enjoys hanging out with her friends, eating sushi and reading in her free time.
My dad is in the Navy, so I grew up being surrounded by the military.” - Elise Cantu of Lafayette