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.



This past week the MSMS campus was full of excitement as Mr. Chuck Yarborough held auditions for the 2018 Tales from the Crypt performance. Every year students compete to participate in this incredible program. This year, fifty-five students from across three sections of US History wrote original performance scripts based upon a semester of primary and secondary document research and then performed those original works as part of the formal audition process.  The auditions were scored by a “celebrity” panel of judges consisting of 14 MSMS seniors who participated in Tales last year, 1 Tales alum, Mr. Yarborough, as well the U.S. History classmates.   

For those new to MSMS or unfamiliar with the project, Tales from the Crypt is a theatrical performance whereby students from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science honor those buried in Columbus’ historic Friendship Cemetery. Following a brief overview of Columbus history, US History students select a name of a person buried in Friendship Cemetery who died in the nineteenth or early twentieth century. Students then visit the gravesite of their research subject and conduct significant research to learn about their selected person and his or her life. Students then write a research paper detailing what they learned and connecting that to the larger historical context of that day in time. From there, students write an original monologue script based on their research subject. These monologues become the basis for the Tales from the Crypt candlelight performance in Friendship Cemetery. Performers will tell their stories on the gravesite of their research subject and provide an overview of Columbus and Mississippi history to those in attendance. 

Congratulations are in order for the following students selected as dramatic performers for the 28th annual Tales from the Crypt – April 6, 9, 11, & 13 this year.

The Tales from the Crypt performers for 2018 are:

Individual Performances:

Ethan Trapolino

Millie Perdue

Kaelon McNeece

Theresa Ho

Dev Jaiswal

Erin Williams

Darian Bowles

Austin Cosby

Hunter Ladner

Decoration Day Ladies:

Victoria Waller

Amber Means

Sara Scott

Kiera Monroe

Taniya Bland

MacKenzie Umanzor