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.



Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science students took top honors in the Olympiad of Spoken Russian, held at Rhodes College in Memphis April 6. The contest is a unique event among language competitions and tests the most difficult aspect of language acquisition, speaking. In the four parts of the event, contestants describe in Russian themselves, their families and their interests; discuss aspects of Russian culture and geography; recite Russian poetry; and answer questions based on Russian narratives.

Senior Haley Hsu of Horn Lake received the overall gold medal and was recognized for the highest score ever earned at the Olympiada contest in the Memphis region. For her achievement, the judges nominated Haley for national recognition by the American Council of Teachers of Russian.

Fellow Russian 2 team members Hillary Gerber of Columbus and Alex Wheeler of West Point received gold medals and Noah McKone of Bogue Chitto won silver. In this group Alex received the highest score.

In Russian 1, juniors Elise Cook of Steens, Sydney “Sam” Matrisciano of Winona, Micah Robinson of Brandon and Matthew Westmoreland of Terry won gold. Matthew was the high scorer in Russian 1. Sam was given a special award for grace and composure in her responses to the questions and tasks of the Olympiad.

“I’m tremendously proud of these students,” said MSMS Russian teacher Margaret Mary Henry. “They have worked very hard. What a joy to see their efforts so richly rewarded.” Ms. Henry also had praise for junior Olga Goupalova, an MSMS junior originally from St. Petersburg, Russia who helped coach the MSMS team. “Olga did a superb job and was a big part of our success. She is an excellent peer tutor who truly reflects the four MSMS ideals of scholarship, community, service and creativity.”