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.


MSMS ALUM SPOTLIGHT: Mickel Sandifer, c/o 2017

MSMS Connects recently caught up with alumnus Mickel Sandifer, who graduated from MSMS in 2017.

Why did you choose MSMS? 

I decided to attend MSMS to experience a greater challenge than was being provided at my homeschool. I also wanted to have access to better resources and be surrounded by more like-minded individuals like myself.  

How would you describe your time at MSMS? 

Sensational. I had a great time here. I met so many great people, and some of whom I stay connected with to this day. My time at MSMS really helped mold me into the person I am today.  

Do you think MSMS helped prepare you for your future academic endeavors? 

Most definitely. Being challenged at MSMS helped me transition into college because a lot of the entry level courses I took were already familiar to me. Not to mention, living in the dorm space at MSMS helped me learn how to be more responsible. I noticed a gap between my peers and me because I was comfortable as a freshman. I already knew what it was like living away from home and all the responsibilities that came with it.  

MSMS also helped me learn how to be comfortable in academic and social spaces with those who have different perspectives from me. Back home, I was used to being the smartest person in the room, and the one who everyone came to when they needed help. So, to transition into an environment where a lot of that burden was released, I learned how to ask for help from others and I realized I do not have to know everything, and that is O.K. 

What university are you currently attending? 

After receiving my bachelor’s at Oberlin College, I recently enrolled in the Master of Public Health Program at Morehouse School of Medicine. 

What inspired you to pursue your master’s? 

I want to go into public health to address the health disparities  I have seen all my life growing up, specifically in African American and Black communities. African American populations have a distrust with healthcare systems in general, and I want to try to bridge the gap between Black communities and hospitals.  

After I finish my master’s, I eventually want to come back and contribute to healthcare and education in Mississippi any way I can.