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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.



On August 1st and 2nd, 2016, the 118 members of the newly inaugurated Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science spent several hours exploring the ideal of service.

In partnership with United Way, students from MSMS visited every single school in the Columbus Municipal School District to offer their help to the schools’ teachers in getting their classrooms ready for the upcoming school year.

“The four ideals of MSMS are Scholarship, Creativity, Service, and Community and we feel that this [project] not only fits the service aspect, but that it is important for our students to learn to give back to the community,” said MSMS Director for Academic Affairs, Kelly Brown. “If we teach them this now this is something they can take with them.”

The students were led by the MSMS Emissaries, seniors who work as student ambassadors and mentors for the incoming juniors.

“Mostly we’ve been decorating a lot,” said MSMS Emissary and Durant, Mississippi native Jhade Jordan.

Some of the new juniors attended the schools at which they worked, like new junior Mary Owings, who was a student at Columbus High School last year.

“It’s weird to be here not as a student, but I’m so happy I got to come here and do a follow up,” said Owings.

Owings and her friends were able to help out some teachers they knew, like Columbus High School Spanish and ESL teacher, Courtney Stanback.

“When I saw so many come in, I thought we have a lot to do. How is this going to work? But then once they came down we immediately had projects they were willing to do anything and we started to see things happen. I thought it was fabulous,” she said.

Gavin Senger, a junior from Florence, Mississippi believes the school is already teaching his fellow students the school’s values.

“I think MSMS wants us to get out and help the community so we can help the community when we go to college and other places,” he said.

The Columbus Municipal School District consists of several schools, including Sale Elementary, where Principal Kimberly Blunt was putting her MSMS volunteers to work.

“The kids have been wonderful. We have felt so blessd to have them in our buildings,” she said. “The students came right in and have been working hard.”

Emissary Tia Wilson, of Greenwood, Mississippi, noted that she hopes the juniors understand that service is a critical component of the MSMS experience, today and beyond.

“Giving back is the ultimate thing to do,” she said. “Later in life we want them to give back to Mississippi in a big way.”