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 MSMS Blue Notes have been busy traveling around the state spreading music and learning the history of music legends. Known as the “Birthplace of America’s Music,” Mississippi is best known as home of the blues. The annual traveling concert of the MSMS Blue Notes is called Sites and Sounds.  The Blue Notes consists of the choir and the instrumental performance group who come together and perform at various locations. 

“The tour is a culmination of the student’s study of the historical significance of the Delta’s role in the development of indigenous American music, the Civil Rights Movement, and the connection between the two,” said, Dawn Barham, MSMS Performing Arts Director.                              

The Sites and Sounds tour began at the Robert Johnson grave site in Greenwood. Johnson was an American blues singer-songwriter and musician. Legend has it he sold his soul to the devil to achieve success. Students also visited the Emmett Till marker before traveling to the BB King Museum. The tour continued along the Blues Highway stopping at historical and cultural markers. Other stops included the Rock n Soul Museum and Beale Street in Memphis, TN. “Sites and Sounds taught me about the history of music in Mississippi,” said Faith Ivy, MSMS senior. “It also taught me how the music that my generation listens to is derived from older music,” added Ivy.

“The objective of the tour is to bring the historical and cultural contributions of the Mississippi Delta to the world to life for the students and their audiences,” said Barham. She added, “It is also our goal to help our students become educated, impassioned and informed ambassadors for our state.”  

During the tour, the group performed at Ruleville High School and Minor Memorial United Methodist Church in Walls, MS. 

This year, the music performed included Delta and Memphis blues, spirituals, and early rock and soul.