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.



History lined the walls of MSMS on January 6 as the graduated Class of 2017 flocked into Nissan Auditorium for this year’s Senior Tribute. A tradition of countless years, Senior Tribute features performances from current students that honor the achievements and inside jokes of last year’s seniors. 

Serving as a reunion for those who found a family at MSMS but attend college all over the country, the event allowed recent graduates to reminisce on memories made together and take advantage of the opportunity to mingle with the current generation of juniors. 

Alumni Affairs Secretaries, seniors Sydney Matrisciano and Alana Andrus, were both given the task of directing this year’s tribute. The team began matching the faces and personalities of current juniors to portray the roles of recent graduates as soon as the school year began. Then, scripts for plays were composed to accurately reflect on the momentous events and humorous traditions of the Class of 2017. These plays were performed on-stage by the 118 juniors and few current seniors that were assigned to impersonate a specific Grandsenior.    

“Senior Tribute… where do I begin? I think of Senior Tribute as a way to form a bond between separated classes. In a normal high school, we’d have that bond and extended community. There’s nothing wrong with MSMS being special, but I see Senior Tribute as a way to forge connections while honoring the legacy of the Grand seniors. During the first semester, seniors are the juniors’ whole world. We’re the pros, we know the ins and outs of MSMS life. But at Senior Tribute, we ignore them. They realize they’re really part of a much, much larger family when they meet the other class. And that’s a cool realization to watch,” expressed Matrisciano. 

Andrus believes that Senior Tribute provides a way to show appreciation for her seniors and the care they had generously presented. 

“I believe Senior Tribute is important because it gives us a chance to come to a close with our seniors. It also allows us to introduce our juniors to the people who really changed our lives during one of the most formative years of our lives, junior year. I saw a lot of great people smile as they saw how the junior class came together and did this for not only our seniors, but for us because they knew how much we valued our seniors,” observed Andrus. 

The scripts included plays that depict memorable incidents and stories that are known about the recent graduates: sarcastic cafeteria conversations, stolen cakes, relationship drama, quirky fashion, brotherhood of a group chat, dorm lifestyle, etc. 

Grandsenior Mayukh Datta was able to attend the tribute. He received the chance to meet his Grandjuniors and interact with the junior portraying him. 

“Senior Tribute is supposed to be a time for us seniors to go down memory lane, and the people in-charge of the event outdid themselves. I enjoyed it a lot, and I am, especially, glad that there was a Bro Chat scene,” stated Datta. 

The tribute also featured a couple’s walk to remind the crowd of last year’s loves. The performances concluded with a skit showcasing The Vision, in which last year’s newspaper staff reviewed past articles of the classes’ accomplishments. 

Despite the goodbyes made later that night, a school dance in Shackleford Auditorium ended Senior Tribute with memories of the many past dances; the Grandseniors were given the chance to show-off their experienced dance routines to current seniors and juniors, just like good old times. Although each graduate of MSMS walks down separate paths after leaving, the bond connecting the generations of MSMS students is that of a family that cannot be bent or broken.