Luray high school grad finds success, direction at Laurel Ridge after false start at 4-year college

lauren gund

Deciding to return home and attend Laurel Ridge has been the best decision she’s ever made, according to 2017 Luray High School graduate Lauren Gund.

She will earn an associate of arts and sciences degree in general education with a specialization in recreation and outdoor leadership this spring. Gund will then transfer to Radford University to major in therapeutic recreation. She hopes to attain a master’s degree in occupational therapy and work with older adults.

In fall 2017, Gund set off for a four-year university to study athletic training. A great student in high school, she struggled in the classes that were above freshman level. Plus, her professors at the university had many more students in their charge than is the case at Lord Fairfax.

She made the decision to return home and enroll at Laurel Ridge.

“Going away to college is really exciting because you get to be on your own and be independent, but once I got back to Lord Fairfax, I found that the staff was really helpful, vs. having to figure everything out on my own,” Gund says. “They have helped me every step of the way, especially [Luray-Page County Center Manager] Judy Suddith. My adviser has helped me through the college enrollment and class registration process step-by-step.”

She has found her professors to be especially helpful.

“That’s what’s so positive about Laurel Ridge,” Gund says. “They make you come in and talk to them, and make sure you’re on track.”

Stacey Ellis, associate professor of health, physical education and recreation, has been a great influence on her. Professor Ellis created the recreation and outdoor leadership program at Laurel Ridge.

“I love Professor Ellis’s classes,” Gund says. “She’s been a really good mentor and adviser towards me. She has been talking to the professors at Radford – I’m the first transfer to Radford for this major.”

Last year, Laurel Ridge and Shepherd University signed a 2+2 transfer agreement – two years at Laurel Ridge for an associate degree with the recreation and outdoor leadership specialization and two years at Shepherd for a bachelor’s degree in recreation and sports studies.

At Laurel Ridge, the students take classes that include outdoor recreation, risk management, leadership and supervision, outdoor adventure, and program planning, as well as general education courses, such as college composition I and II, sociology and biology.

“Professor Ellis’s classes have really brought a positive outlook for what I’m going to be doing for my future,” Gund says.

A practicum she did at a senior living center in Warren County helped her decide she would like to work with the elderly.

“My hope is to be able to help others,” Gund says. “A lot of older people feel lonely as they begin to enter the stages of dementia. I want to be able to improve their lives. I just like making people smile.”


Thinking about the impact Laurel Ridge has had on Gund would make anybody smile.

“Without the help of everyone at the college, I probably couldn’t have done it,” she says of succeeding in college. “I don’t think I would be where I am now without having to go through the process of not having a good experience at a four-year, and then coming here and being serious about something and knowing what I have to do and moving towards that.”

Professor Ellis has witnessed Gund’s progress first hand. She has seen her go from a student unsure of her future academic and career path to someone with a clear goal in mind.

“Through the recreation and outdoor leadership classes, practicum experiences, etc., I have seen Lauren grow tremendously,” says Professor Ellis. “It was during the practicum experiences, in which she worked with a recreation therapist in a senior living facility, that she made the connection between what we were learning in the classroom and how she could apply the knowledge and skills professionally.

“I look forward to following her journey as she completes her degree at Laurel Ridge, transfers to Radford for therapeutic recreation, and ultimately begins a career in which she gets to work with seniors.”

Learn more about Laurel Ridge’s recreation and outdoor leadership program at