Rachel Shumaker

Miss Pontotoc Ridge

Hometown:   Pontotoc, Mississippi                                                        

Platform:  Ahead of the Curve – Scoliosis         

Talent:   Piano      

What college did you attend, or are currently attending?   Mississippi State University

What is your major?  Double major in Communication/Public Relations and Political Science                                                                        

What is your scholastic ambition?   To gain Bachelor of Arts degrees in Communication/Public Relations and Political Science and eventually work for a public relations firm, elected official, or other government organization.                                                                                                                                                       

List scholastic honors:    Shackouls Honors College: President’s List – Spring 2018; Dean’s List – Fall 2017, Fall 2018; Turner Catledge Journalism Scholarship; Academic Excellence Scholarship; BNA Bank Scholarship; Ingomar High School STAR Student                                                                                                                                                           

Greatest non-academic accomplishment:   Raising over $4,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals by selling homemade cake balls.

What is your favorite style of music?     Classical crossover

What is your favorite movie genre and why?    I love dramas and movie musicals.                                                                                                                                                        

What is your favorite gadget?    My mini Keurig coffee maker

What is your favorite blog?        Savvyjanine.com – I love following the life of one of my favorite former Miss Americas.

What is your favorite place to visit?     Santorini, Greece is my most memorable travel destination, but I also love the Rocky Mountains.

What is your favorite food?   Anything involving avocados! I have my own healthy cooking Instagram account which features many avocado recipes.

If you were on a deserted island, what book would you want with you?  I would want a survival guide because problem solving in emergency situations is not my strong suit.

Do you Twitter?       Yes! I think Twitter is the most influential social media platform of my time.                                                                                      

What is your favorite?  

Sport:  Anything in the summer Olympics                                                               

Sports Team:   Atlanta United Soccer and Mississippi State Bulldogs

Actor:   Johnny Depp                          

Actress:  Viola Davis 

Television Program:   Scandal and The Great British Baking Show                                               

Wardrobe Accessory:      Shoes – especially ones involving animal print.

Thing to do on a weekend:    Spending time with my three nieces and traveling around Mississippi

Way to spend a day off:   As a self-proclaimed foodie, I love spending my free time cooking.

What is your hometown like?   My hometown of Pontotoc is spirited, quaint, and patriotic.  It is family-oriented and was even once voted the best place in Mississippi to raise a child.  

What were you like when you were a child?   I was independent, strong-willed, eager to learn, and adventurous. I asked a lot of questions and loved traveling, which really hasn’t changed. 

Who is the most influential person in your life? My scoliosis doctor and surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Sawyer, made a lasting impact on me during the most difficult season of my life. He always ensured I was as educated as possible about my condition and worked to lessen its impact on my life. After surgery, Dr. Sawyer still supports my endeavors with Ahead of the Curve – Scoliosis.     

What is the one thing about you that people you meet may not immediately realize?    That I have the strength of titanium – both physically and mentally.  Not only do I have 18 titanium screws and 2 10-inch rods in my spine, but living with a physical deformity for several years gave me the strength I needed to face the most difficult of circumstances for the rest of my life.

Describe one defining moment in your own life, other than winning your local title:  After my scoliosis surgery, my surgeon asked me if I would speak to a girl who would be having the surgery soon to comfort her. It was then that I realized my hardships were much more than a bump in the road. They were part of my purpose. Since then, my joy has been found in being an encourager and friend to those who are feeling the physical and emotional pain of scoliosis.

What is one important thing you have learned from being in the Miss America Program?    Everyone has a story to tell, and there is always someone who needs to hear it. The Miss America Organization gave me the courage I needed to use my voice to be a trailblazer and a change maker.

If you are crowned Miss Mississippi, what do you want to accomplish during your Year of Service?     I hope to be the voice that inspires Mississippians to simply do more. We have too long been defined by negative stereotypes and statistics – but it’s time for a change. I want to encourage people of all ages to be engaged in their communities, their education, and their state, all while promoting scoliosis advocacy and using my patient story to be a voice for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

 What is your secret wish or dream?    To be the White House Press Secretary

I’m motivated by:   A constant inner desire to overcome expectations. Every time one of my goals is unprecedented, unlikely, or unexpected, I am invigorated daily to achieve it.

Is there a personal connection that made you pick your personal platform?    After my personal experiences with scoliosis, I saw a vital need in the medical community to address an issue that is too often ignored. There is much work to be done in education, research, and advocacy for scoliosis and Ahead of the Curve aims to resolve these issues.

 What do you think has been the most significant event in your lifetime?    I think that the explosion of social media is an event that will leave a lasting impact on the way my generation thinks, interacts, communicates, works, and lives. We have a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips and worldwide platforms to share it on – something no other generation has been able to experience.

The one thing I can’t live without:         Coffee                                               

My best friend would describe me as:    Busy, hardworking, and organized.  She gets a front row seat to all of the preparation for Miss Mississippi!

Something interesting about my family:    Every member of my family either graduated from or currently attends Mississippi State University, except for my mother. Sorry, Mom!        

Funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me:              Once during a piano performance, I forgot at least half of my piece and just sat there at the piano. It had never happened to me before, and I thought I could play this piece in my sleep. This taught me the value of never resting on prior performances and being resilient after defeat!

One thing I’d like to try that is out of character for me:  I have always loved to write but have never published any of my writing. I think it would be neat to write and publish a book!

Do you have any pets? If so, what kind and tell us their names:    I have a grumpy miniature schnauzer named Millie, a spirited pudelpointer puppy named Rey after my favorite Star Wars character, and a beautiful tortoiseshell cat named Crookshanks after Hermione’s cat in Harry Potter.