Lily Renneker ’17 is no stranger to high-pressure situations, but sitting in front of a panel of judges in a plush conference room perched high atop the John Hancock Building in downtown Boston, even she must have felt a flutter of butterflies. She was, after all, just one of sixty high school seniors in the Northeast to reach the Regional Interview stage for the prestigious Jefferson Scholarship Foundation, a program that awards tuition and substantial enrichment support to undergraduates at the University of Virginia.
One of most renowned scholarships in the nation, only 34 Jefferson Scholars emerged from 1,825 nominees last year. And now Lily, having advanced through the Regional Interview and then a final Selection Weekend that included a barrage of exams, interviews, and seminars, has been named a 2017 Jefferson Scholar.
It’s not difficult to see why Lily was selected for a scholarship program whose mission is “to serve the University of Virginia by identifying, attracting, and nurturing individuals of extraordinary intellectual range and depth who possess the highest concomitant qualities of leadership, scholarship, and citizenship.” Lily first discovered Middlesex while living in Austin, Texas, and she was eager to join what she describes as a “rigorous, high-achieving community where students are supportive instead of competitive with each other.” Now a senior, Lily has thrived in all aspects of the School. She’s especially distinguished herself in the sciences, and her academic experience in AP Physics, AP Chemistry, and AP Biology, in addition to her summer work with Dr. Alcy Torres at the bilingual pediatric neurology clinic at Boston Medical Center, has sparked Lily’s career interests in pediatric neurology.
Lily’s contributions to the community also extend far beyond the classroom. She captained the Middlesex Volleyball Team to a New England Championship this fall, and she's also been a key contributor to Girls' Varsity Crew team. She works as a peer tutor in the evenings, and during the day she serves as a Head Tour Guide, meeting prospective students and proudly showing off the school she calls home, the community where she was inspired to stretch beyond her comfort zone and learn the piano and join an a capella group.
Lily is quick to express her gratitude to Middlesex for helping her grow into the well-rounded student that was so coveted by the Jefferson Scholarship Foundation. She notes, for instance, how her AP Biology teacher, Dr. Kerry Magee, always connects their studies to current events in science, developing a deep understanding of real world applications that Lily, in turn, discussed during her Jefferson Scholarship interviews.
“Middlesex had prepared me so well for every step of the Jefferson selection process,” she explains. “Living in the community has given me the chance be a leader and an active participant in life in and outside the classroom. Middlesex also does a fantastic job preparing its students to offer original ideas backed up by solid evidence in seminars and discussions, use critical thinking to solve difficult math and logic problems, write an effective essay in a timed setting, and communicate comfortably with impressive, qualified adults.”
As for next year, Lily is currently choosing between Yale and the University of Virginia. But while she’s still uncertain about her college choice, she is certain that she’ll be a pre-med student. Pursuing medicine is an easy choice, after all, because as Lily puts it, it combines her two favorite things: “Science and people."