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.



The sixth annual Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science Summer Enrichment Camp has begun.

From Sunday, June 11 until Friday, June 16, 64 rising seventh and eighth grade students from all corners of the Magnolia state and beyond will live, work, and play on the campus of MSMS.

Students who signed up for the camp had the opportunity to choose between 13 different classes being offered this year. The classes range from programing classes to media creation classes to engineering classes to classes about the history of mathematics. Most of the courses are taught by MSMS faculty or staff members.

“In Mississippi, gifted education ends in the sixth grade, and this camp is designed to keep the interest of these gifted students in STEM related fields over the summer,” said Camp Co-Director Rick Smith. 

Smith, who also serves as the MSMS Director for Student Affairs co-directs the camp with MSMS mathematics instructor, Lauren Zarandona.

Campers also take part a variety of leadership activities during the evening hours, and since the camp is residential, the student get a taste of what living in the MSMS residence halls is like.

Beyond the directors and course instructors, the camp is staffed with a dozen counselors, each a current or former MSMS student.

MSMS Summer Enrichment Camp Assistant Directors, Brent Eubanks and Madison Wardlaw
MSMS Summer Enrichment Camp Assistant Directors, Brent Eubanks and Madison Wardlaw

“Because MSMS changed the course of my life, the least I can do to give a little of my time back to the school,” said camp assistant director Brent Eubanks. 

Eubanks is a 2013 MSMS graduate and recently finished his undergraduate studies at the University of Mississippi, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with an emphasis in Biochemistry and minors in Mathematics, Russian, and Biology.

“I love this camp,” said camp assistant director Madison Wardlaw. “MSMS has given so much to me. It has changed the way I think about what I am capable of doing. I believe every child in Mississippi deserves the opportunity to have their eyes opened by this place.”

Wardlaw, a 2015 MSMS graduate is from Lake Cormorant, Mississippi. Currently, she is a sophomore at Grinnell College.

The camp is tuition based, however, scholarships were made available to students who showed sufficient need. These scholarships were made possible through the generosity of Butler Snow, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Entergy, the Mississippi Association of Gifted Children, the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, the Phil Hardin Foundation, Cooper Tires, and Cooperative Energy.

Next week, MSMS will host another, similar, Enrichment Camp for rising ninth and tenth grade students.

MSMS is Mississippi’s only public, residential high school specifically designed to meet the needs of the state’s most academically gifted and talented students. The award-winning high school is located in Columbus, Mississippi, on the campus of the Mississippi University for Women.

For more information about MSMS, please visit