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.



In celebration of National School Counselors Week, we sat down with Dr. Tylon Crook and Dr. Heath Stevens, professional school counselors here at The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science to get their perspectives on the impact and importance of the work they do.

The MSMS School Counseling Program focuses on preparing students within a residential environment with the skills, knowledge, and awareness needed for life-long learning and success. To enhance student success at MSMS and beyond, Dr. Crook and Dr. Stevens offer a comprehensive counseling program that focuses on three main areas—academic development, college and career preparedness, and personal/social growth. While Dr. Crook and Dr. Stevens offer the types of programs and supports you would see in a traditional K-12 environment such as academic skills support, organizational, study, and test taking assistance, college and scholarship preparedness, and career awareness, exploration, and planning, they also deliver equally robust offerings in the areas of personal and social growth. These services and areas of expertise include multicultural and diversity awareness, communication, problem solving, decision-making, and conflict resolution training, and leadership development. They also conduct a variety of individual counseling sessions based on the specific needs of each student. In addition, Dr. Crook and Dr. Stevens each write over 100 letters of recommendations for seniors customized to each specific student and the program or scholarship they are applying for!

Currently, The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science Counseling Center is working diligently to achieve certification as a Recognized American School Counselor Association Program (RAMP). RAMP certification is the gold standard among comprehensive, data-driven school counseling programs. Under Dr. Crook and Dr. Stevens’ leadership, the MSMS Counseling Program has become a shining example for the state of Mississippi, meeting and exceeding all recommendations made by the state. Achieving RAMP certification would add additional credibility to the MSMS Counseling Program and further define it as the pillar of excellence that it has come to be. Once a school begins the RAMP certification process, they must take at least one full academic year to collect and track relevant data points and student outcomes in order to leverage that information to quantify the success of a counseling program. Dr. Stevens and Dr. Crook are in the process of arduously collecting and analyzing data to support the overwhelming success of the MSMS Counseling Program.

Both Dr. Crook and Dr. Stevens came to MSMS with a depth and breadth of experience as counselor educators at the university level and as mental health counselors. Additionally, the are both actively involved in the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) and are committed to advancing their profession in the state and the nation. To that end, they both participate in a wide variety of seminars and trainings, often serving as key note speakers and subject matter experts in the areas of academic counseling, mental health, and social emotional growth and development. Similarly, they both enjoy strong partnerships with networks of colleges and universities across the United States. Through these partnerships, Dr. Crook and Dr. Stevens have been able to spread awareness about the uniqueness of the student population here at MSMS as well as make valuable connections to facilitate student interest in a wider range of universities and colleges. In addition to participation and leadership in the ASCA, state and national outreach, and donating their time and expertise to improve other counseling programs, Dr. Crook and Dr. Stevens are both actively involved in the extracurricular offerings at MSMS. Dr. Crook sponsors the newly created Black Student Alliance. Dr. Stevens sponsors the Analog Game Club and the Photography Club.

You don’t have to spend much time with Dr. Stevens and Dr. Crook to know how committed they are to their profession and how seriously they take their mission enhance and encourage the success of students here at MSMS and beyond. Every student who comes through the door at MSMS is impacted by the work Dr. Crook and Dr. Stevens do. As a school community, we are lucky to have not one, but two outstanding professional counselors to call our own.