A STEM School Chattanooga senior is one of only about 1,500 students to be accepted to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston this fall.
Renee Schebler was the only student in East Tennessee accepted to MIT, according to a news release.
In 2016, the university got 19,020 applications for freshman admissions and made only 1,511 offers; that means only 8 percent of people who applied got in, according to MIT's website.
For her senior business project, Schebler created Arden the Programmable Bear, according to the news release.
She said that Arden will light up and say a phrase when you hug it. The school is now working to connect her with Build-A-Bear Workshop to get Arden in the hands of children everywhere, according to the news release.
"Getting girls involved in STEM is a true passion of mine," Schebler said. "I hope to get [Arden] out there with Build-A-Bear to get girls building things and making things."
"We went [to MIT] for campus preview weekend, and it was amazing," Schebler said. "I met people that were as focused and driven as me, and they really break all the nerd stereotypes."
But her father, Matt Schebler, wasn't immediately sold on the idea of MIT.
"It's going to be a lot of hard work for a long period of time, plus there's a large financial commitment," he said. "But she's going to the engineering center of the universe, and I couldn't be more proud of her."
She plans to enroll in the electrical engineering program at MIT.
STEM School Principal Dr. Tony Donen said this provides validation for what the school is doing and that he couldn't be happier for Schebler.
"Renee’s acceptance not only means she is one of the best students in the country, but that she is one of the best in the world, because tech students from all over the world apply to MIT," he said in a prepared statement. "We have a wonderful student that has taken advantage of every opportunity at [STEM School Chattanooga] to maximize her learning and her own personal growth."
Hamilton County Department of Education Interim Superintendent Dr. Kirk Kelly also said Schebler’s acceptance to MIT is a sign of the importance of STEM School Chattanooga.
"[Schebler] embodies what we really focus on here in Hamilton County, which is getting students career- and future-ready," he said. "Our goal in Hamilton County and the STEM school is to create pathways and opportunities for students to be ready for college, and we got a shining example of that today."
In addition to acceptance to MIT, the class valedictorian was offered a full scholarship to Oklahoma State University, according to the news release. She was also selected by the Tennessee Department of Education as a nominee for the national U.S. Presidential Scholars Program.
"Renee is proof you can get a great education in Hamilton County," Donen said in a prepared statement. "She will continue to be an inspiration to students for years to come."
Schebler has set up a Go Fund Me page to help cover her college tuition and expenses, with a goal of $5,000. She has already raised over $1,000, and she received a $500 donation from the founder of Build-A-Bear Workshop.
To donate to the Go Fund Me, click here.
For more information about STEM School Chattanooga, click here.
Eric Wise is a contributing writer. He is currently attending UTC, where he is a staff writer for the school newspaper, The University Echo. He also serves as the alumni relations chairman for his fraternity.