Clara Brown ’17 never dreamed she would compete in the Olympics as part of Team USA. But her time at Puget Sound changed what she believed was possible.

Clara Brown ’17. Photo by Nicole Wolf

An avid athlete in her youth, Clara sustained an incomplete spinal cord injury at age 12, resulting in soft-tissue nerve damage that impedes her sensory perception and balance.

At Puget Sound, Clara worked with a Tacoma bike shop to build an adaptive cycle that met her physical and sensory needs. When she shared her passion for cycling with an inspirational leader on campus, he encouraged her to pursue her dream—despite her more practical-minded hesitations.

In the end, Clara solidified her commitment to that dream. With her full tuition and fees covered by the Matelich Scholarship, she had the invaluable opportunity to graduate free of debt, providing a crucial safety net as she tested her mettle in the world of professional cycling.

Clara’s unflagging spirit, aided by the Puget Sound community and our generous donors, gave her the opportunity to pursue her passion with more focus and intention, and to, as she puts it, “dream big.”

Since graduating, Clara competed in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, as well as a host of regional and international events. She is also training for her private pilot’s license and one day hopes to attend law school.

“My background as a student leader and Matelich Scholar set me up with the confidence to become a leader within the Paralympic movement,” she says. “I’m so grateful for the support from Puget Sound to strive for such a big goal.”