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Student Success

It’s no wonder Western Carolina University freshman Lauren Bryson is drawn to discovering new sources of energy. She’s been in motion most of her life.

A former competitive wakeboarder, Bryson, an electrical engineering student and the first recipient of WCU’s Hopkins and Ray Engineering and Technology Endowed Scholarship, is exhilarated by the spinning and turning and flying high above the water that seem to come naturally to her. At age 14, she won the open women’s section of the 2014 National Points Challenge, a national wakeboarding competition in Little Elm, Texas, one of many competitions in which she would place. While a neck injury two years later grounded her from competition, it hasn’t kept her from teaching others the sport that caught her fancy when she was just 12 years old.

“The best part about wakeboarding is the feeling I get when I’m flying through the air,” Bryson said. “My favorite trick is called a ‘Hoochie Glide,’ where you go as high as you possibly can off the ramp and do a Superman-type thing and grab your board with your front hand. I’ve gotten like 30 feet in the air before. It’s the best feeling in the world—unless you land wrong; then it’s the worst.”

The scholarship that is helping Bryson attend WCU was established by Jeff Ray, dean of the College of Engineering and Technology, and Tina Ray, eighth-grade math teacher at Cherokee Middle School. It is open to any WCU engineering or engineering technology student.

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Originally published Feb. 28, 2019.