Amy Zhang among Mississippi's Nine U.S. Presidential Scholar Semifinalists

JACKSON, Miss. –  The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) announced today that the outgoing Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) senior student representative Amy Zhang of Starkville is one of nine Mississippi students selected as semifinalists for the 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. The program honors the nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors.

Amy attends the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science in Columbus. She was appointed as the SBE junior representative in 2020. 

Mississippi’s other U.S. Presidential Scholar semifinalists for 2022 are listed below:

  • Dia Chawla of Pillow Academy in Greenwood
  • Kylar DeLoach of Enterprise High School in Enterprise
  • Jeffrey Jordan of Jackson Preparatory School in Jackson
  • Sarah Leroux of Madison Central High School in Madison
  • Madeline Pitre of Biloxi High School in Biloxi
  • Wesley Smalley of Florence High School in Florence
  • Ritchie Yang of Petal High School in Petal
  • Yujie Yang of Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg

Madeline and Ritchie, along with Amy, are also members of MDE’s Student Advisory Council.

Mississippi’s semifinalists were selected from among more than 5,000 candidates nationwide. A total of 620 high school seniors were selected as semifinalists for 2022. These students form the pool from which the 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars will be chosen.

The 2022 Presidential Scholars are chosen on the basis of their accomplishments in many areas – academic and artistic success, accomplishment in career and technical fields, leadership, and involvement in school and the community. The scholars represent excellence in education and the promise of greatness in America’s young people.

“Mississippi is represented well among the nation’s top high school scholars once again,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “I join with these students’ families, teachers, schools and communities in congratulating them for receiving this national recognition.”

Created in 1964, the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program honors the nation’s top-performing students with the prestigious award given to honorees during the annual ceremony in D.C. The program was later expanded to recognize students who demonstrate exceptional talent in the arts and career and technical education fields. The 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars will be announced in mid-May.



Braeden Foldenhauer is this year’s winner of the Vel Anthony Award.

The recipients of the Spirit of MSMS Awards are: Hannah Craft, Jax Dallas, Vivia Davis, Lilian Fulgham, Calissa Henry, John Howell, Haley Hsu, Tija Johnson, McKenzie Jone, Gary Nguyen, Leah Pettit, Reagan Poston, Caleb Robinson, Harpreet Singh, Jack Sparkman and Rachel Vance.

The new inductees into the MSMS Hall of Fame are: Greg Billingsley, Mayukh Datta, Braeden Foldenauer, Maggie Ford, Emily Hook, Haley Hsu, Uriah Jenkins, Jenny Nguyen, Vivian Van, Ariel Williams, and Laurel Yarborough. 


  • Excellence in Mathematics, Calculus: Andy Zhao
  • Excellence in Mathematics, Statistics: Maggie Ford
  • Highest Mathematics Grade Point Average: Haley Hsu
  • Polymath Award: Haley Hsu


  • Excellence in Biology: Haydn Schroader
  • Excellence in Computer Science: Emily Hook and Deven Martin
  • Excellence in Physics: Maggie Ford
  • Overall Excellence in Science: Tristan Daily
  • Excellence in Research: Maggie Ford and Sutton Klein


  • Excellence in Junior English: Gary Nguyen and Aidan Dunkleberg
  • Excellence in Senior English: Sydney Warren and Reagan Poston
  • Jack Carter Outstanding Achievement in Journalism: Noah Hunt
  • Jarvis DeBerry Writing Award: Jax Dallas
  • Chris Read Award for Fiction: Emily Hook
  • Abernethy Award for Excellence in Creative Writing: Rebecca Chen


  • Judith Anne Morris Award for Excellence in History: Braeden Foldenauer, Dustin Dunaway, and Samuel Patterson.
  • Excellence in Economics: Anna Overstreet


  • Excellence in German: Daniel Cieslinski
  • Excellence in French: Ariel Williams
  • Excellence in Latin: Raven Ferguson
  • Excellence in Spanish: Steven Oversen
  • Excellence in Russian: Haley Hsu
  • National Security Language Initiative Youth Scholarship: Hillary Gerber


  • Senior Instrumental Performance: Noah Hunt
  • Senior Choral Performance: Joy Payne
  • Junior Choral Performance: Lydia Holley
  • Junior Instrumental Performance: Aidan Dunkleburg
  • Sites and Sounds of Mississippi Blue Note Instrumentalist Award: Allyson Espy
  • Starkville/Mississippi State University Orchestra Strings Award: Aidan Dunkleburg
  • Excellence in Dramatic Performance: Claudia Vial
  • Shellie McKnight Memorial Music Award: Emily Hook


  • Sculpture Award: Margarete Ellis
  • Drawing Award: Mary Ellen Owings and Sage Shaumburg
  • Britney Camus: Painting Award