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ASFA Student James Shi Named U.S. Presidential Scholar

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced the 58th class of U.S. Presidential Scholars, recognizing 161 high school seniors for their accomplishments in academics, the arts, and career and technical education fields. 

As directed by Presidential Executive Order, the 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars are comprised of one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and U.S. families living abroad, as well as 15 chosen at-large, 20 scholars in the arts and 20 scholars in career and technical education. Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA) senior James Shi was selected as the male scholar from Alabama. 

"Our 2022 Presidential Scholars represent the best of America, and remind us that when empowered by education, there are no limits to what our young people can achieve," said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. "Today, I join President Biden to celebrate a class of scholars whose pursuit of knowledge, generosity of spirit, and exceptional talents bring our nation tremendous pride. Throughout one of the most trying periods in our nation's history and amid our recovery from the pandemic, our students have once again demonstrated their strength and that they have so much to contribute to our country. Thanks to them, I know America's future is bright."

The White House Commission on Presidential Scholars selects scholars annually based on their academic success, artistic and technical excellence, essays, school evaluations and transcripts, as well as a demonstrated commitment to community service and leadership.

James Shi is a student in the math-science department at ASFA. His passion for learning led him to advance quickly and skip two grade levels of required math classes and one grade level of science classes. These efforts have also allowed Shi to dual enroll at the University of Alabama in Birmingham to complete both coursework and research. 

Shi’s senior research project, an integral component of ASFA Math-Science Department’s curriculum, centers on long-term treatment for low-grade gliomas, a type of brain tumor. “There isn’t a model currently in place to test treatments on low-grade gliomas, so I am working to help advance this,” he says. He presented his research at the annual Senior Research Symposium on April 14, 2022, in the DJD Theater on ASFA’s campus.

In addition to his outstanding academic achievements, Shi also established a mentorship program with 6th-8th graders at Booker T. Washington K-8 School in the summer of 2021. Shi travels to the school every Friday afternoon to lead their math teams and prepare them for the upcoming MATHCOUNTS competitions.

Shi also founded and serves as president of the Birmingham Branch of The Alliance of Youth Leaders in the U.S. He is on the national board and oversees 100+ branches as national co-vice president and STEM committee chair. His branch has completed over 800 hours of community service. Shi has volunteered an additional 100+ hours at local hospitals and organizations like Jimmie Hale Mission and the Firehouse Shelter.

As he wraps up his senior year, Shi continues to stay busy. He is acting president of Mu Alpha Theta, and is responsible for planning all events, fundraisers, and outreach. He is an ASFA Ambassadors and helps to promote the school and give prospective students tours. After school hours, Shi works at Chick-fil-A, Birmingham Math Academy, and at several independent tutoring jobs. 

In addition to being a U.S. Presidential Scholar, Shi is a three-time gold medal recipient of the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, won the Bronze Distinguished Finalist Award in the Alabama Prudential Spirit of Community Awards Program, and is a National Merit Finalist.

Shi will attend University of Alabama at Birmingham next year in their Early Medical School Acceptance Program. The Early Medical School Acceptance Program (EMSAP) accepts 15 students who are guaranteed a spot in the UAB Heersink School of Medicine. Shi plans to study neuroscience, earn one or two masters, and study abroad in Spain or Asia. He is the Class of 2026 Regions Scholarship Recipient. 

ASFA Math-Science teacher Vincy Lugemwa is being honored as a 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program's Distinguished Teacher after being nominated by Shi.