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.



As the holidays rapidly approach, it is only natural for our thoughts to turn to those who are less fortunate in our community and find ways to come together to meet their needs. For students at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science (MSMS), this meant finding a way to bring smiles to the faces of local children. 

To that end, the student-led Engineering Club at MSMS has been working feverishly to create homemade Christmas toys for roughly 180 children at the Palmer Home and the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus. The concept, originally proposed by Engineering Club Secretary, Leah Pettit, was to leverage the school’s 3D printer and equipment in the Engineering Lab to design toys for local children. The Engineering Club, under club president, Daniel Smothers’ leadership, worked with Mr. Josh Crowson, Computer Science instructor at MSMS, to design a miniature catapult and fidget spinner for each child. In addition, the Engineering Club students created and painted a giant Jenga set for both organizations to have on-site. 

Dr. Germain McConnell, Executive Director of MSMS and Engineering Advisory Board Member stated, “Our students in the Engineering Club adopted very ambitious goals this year, the Santa’s Workshop project being one of them. Our students designed and built all the toys while working together as a unit with the sole purpose of blessing the children at Palmer Home and the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus. Providing opportunities for these types of student-driven initiatives is just one way MSMS nurtures students to become future STEM leaders in the state.”

The children at the Palmer Home and the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus were delighted to unwrap their holiday treats and were even more intrigued to learn that the students who delivered the delightful toys had made them themselves. In addition to spreading holiday cheer, the Engineering Club officers, Daniel Smothers, Leah Pettit, Jim Zhang, and Jagger Riggle piqued the children’s interest in engineering and computer science.