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’s Chuck Yarborough, history instructor, and Elizabeth Morgan, chemistry instructor, both received educator of the year in their respective areas. Morgan was named High School Chemistry Teacher of the Year by the Mississippi Section of the American Chemical Society and Yarborough is the recipient of the 2018 Jesse Palmer Memorial Award as Outstanding Social Studies Educator of the Year by the Mississippi Council for the Social Studies (MCSS).

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“I am honored to be recognized by my professional peers, who are all working to positively impact the lives of so many young people across Mississippi,” said Yarborough.  In 2017, the MCSS selected Yarborough for the Mississippi Social Studies Teachers Hall of Fame. He added, “It’s also amazing to be selected for this award that celebrates the contributions of Dr. Jesse Palmer, a long-time teacher educator at the University of Southern Mississippi.”  Yarbrough is in his 24th year at MSMS where in addition to his teaching, he is the girls’ soccer coach, and serves as an advisor to many student organizations.  “Lovingly known on campus as “Yarby,” Mr. Yarborough is a positive and influential force inside and outside the classroom for many at MSMS,” said Madison Wypyski, MSMS senior. She added, “Unfortunately, I have never had Mr. Yarborough as a teacher, however, I can faithfully say that having known him as a coach, a mentor, and a role model during my time at MSMS, it is obvious why he was named the Social Studies Educator of the Year.”

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As a 1995 graduate of MSMS, Dr. Morgan is no stranger to rigorous coursework as a student or instructor. “It is an honor to be chosen, and it’s always affirming to be recognized for the work that I do. I am grateful to my nominator and the committee for choosing me as the High School Chemistry Teacher of Year,” said Dr. Morgan. “She’s very focused on the hands-on aspect of classes so they are a lot more interesting than her just lecturing,” said Cade Burton, MSMS senior. At MSMS, Dr. Morgan also serves as the American Chemical Society ChemClub and Science Bowl advisors. MSMS Senior Morgan Emokpae said, “Dr. Morgan’s receipt of this award is truly indicative of the passion and dedication that she puts towards equipping her students for success in chemistry.”

“For both of these teachers these recognitions are a confirmation of what we knew about the level of excellence they bring to the classroom,” said Kelly Brown, MSMS Director for Academic Affairs.

The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science (MSMS) is Mississippi’s only public, residential high school specifically designed to meet the needs of the state’s most academically gifted and talented high school juniors and seniors from all corners of the Magnolia State.

Each year, MSMS graduates are offered millions of dollars in scholarships – the 104 graduates of the Class of 2018 accepted $9.6 million of the more than $34 million offered.

The school has been named by several publications as one of America’s best high schools. MSMS was recently ranked the #6 best public high school in the nation and the faculty was ranked #1 as the best public high school teachers in the nation by Niche.

Founded in 1987, on the campus of the Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, Mississippi, the mission of MSMS is “to enhance the future of Mississippi in the global society by meeting the individual needs of gifted and talented students through providing innovative learning experiences and leadership development in a residential environment.”

Additionally, MSMS is a member of the National Consortium for Secondary STEM schools (NCSSS), and at the founding was the fourth such school to exist in the nation.

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