Rachel Shumaker

Miss Pearl of the South

Hometown:        Pontotoc, Mississippi

Social Impact Initiative Description:      My social impact initiative, Ahead of the Curve – Scoliosis is an organization dedicated to educating communities on the importance of early scoliosis screening and swift treatment, advocating for vital research, supporting patients, and empowering those living with scoliosis to persevere with the strength of titanium. Ahead of the Curve is shaping a Mississippi that is ready to embrace our differences and providing opportunities for growth and continued education.

Talent:      Piano

What college do you attend, or have attended, or will attend if High School graduating senior?       Mississippi State University

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

Science with a minor in Pre-Law

List scholastic honors:      Top 6% of class; President’s List – 5 semesters; Dean’s List – 1 semester; Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society; Turner Catledge Journalism Scholarship Recipient; Samuel Dudley Communication Scholarship Recipient; Academic Excellence Scholarship; Ranked 1st in High School Graduating Class

What is your scholastic ambition?      After obtaining two undergraduate degrees, I hope to pursue a Juris Doctor and eventually work for a government institution.

Greatest non-academic accomplishment:      Raising over $9,000 for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

What has been your greatest adventure?  Please provide an answer outside of the Miss America program.      Although my life has genuinely been one great adventure, my time at Mississippi State University has changed my life for the better. I have been exposed to a world of people with backgrounds and life experiences I never would have known otherwise, and I have grown personally and professionally in remarkable ways. Hail State!

What trip shaped your life? Please provide an answer distinct from your social impact initiative.     My first trip to Europe when I was 15 was the first time I was really bitten by the travel bug in Paris, France. It was then that I first grasped how much of this beautiful world I have yet to see.

Use three (3) words to describe your greatest assets.      Tenacity, Organization,


Are you a person of intelligence or of common sense?     I would like to hope I am both! A truly intelligent person also possesses common sense.  

Who is the most influential person in your life other than your mother?      My six-year-old niece Audrey is a constant reminder that there are always little eyes watching me and that one of my most important jobs is to be a role model. She also reminds me not to take life too seriously.

What are your 2 favorite hobbies and what led you to them? Participation in the Miss Mississippi program is not considered a hobby for this question.     My cooking hobby was born out of a desire to learn how to make my own healthy meals on a college student’s budget. I also love traveling and that stems from a constant desire to see the world beyond my home, to reach for new and exciting adventures.

Who is your most interesting relative and why?     My brother, Daniel, has done many interesting things in his life like living on a Chinese dragon boat for a summer while renovating it, backpacking across the United States, working as an unpaid camp counselor for a special needs camp, studying abroad in Spain, and so much more!

What is the best advice you have received and from whom? Please answer this question with information from outside of the Miss America program.     A piece of advice I will always cherish actually come from a Harry Potter book. Albus Dumbledore said, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” I have loved pursuing my dreams, but the best memories have come from those moments where I remembered to pause and be present and grateful in that pursuit.

What is your favorite quote?      “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” – Ernest Hemingway

Who is your most influential mentor and why? Please answer this question with an individual from outside of the Miss America program.     My scoliosis doctor and surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Sawyer made a lasting impact on me during the most difficult season of my life and has since become a dedicated mentor to me. He has selflessly supported my efforts to advocate, educate, and support, and he helped me realize my dream of providing care packages to every patient who undergoes spinal fusion at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

Other than being Miss Mississippi, what is your dream job?      To be a prosecutor or the White House Press Secretary

What is the one thing about you that people you meet may not immediately realize?        I have five nieces and nephews and being Aunt Rachel is one of my greatest joys in life.

What success have you learned most from?  Please answer this question with an experience outside of the Miss America program.      My success in pursuing two undergraduate degrees with a minor has taught me the value of diligence and genuine hard work, even when the reward is years away, and how to give myself grace in the difficult times.

What failure have you learned most from? Please answer this question with an experience outside of the Miss America program.       As a teenager, I dreamt of being Miss Mississippi’s Outstanding Teen. While that dream never came to fruition, I learned that the sweetest rewards come from years of training, sacrifice of self, and relentless dedication to the task at hand.

What is one important thing you have learned from being in the Miss America Program?       I have learned that every single person has a story and there is always someone who needs to hear it. We are each meant to impact our own corners of the world and treasured relationships can come from a story shared.

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 rise above the negative stereotypes and statistics that have long defined us by encouraging people of all ages to be plugged into their communities, their education, and their beloved state. I also want to work for the growth of the Miss Mississippi organization, being a visual representation of the benefits that come from competing and gaining life-changing opportunities and scholarships.

Is there a personal connection that made you pick your personal social impact project?      The trajectory of my adolescence was changed greatly when I learned that I had rapidly progressing, severe scoliosis at the age of 11. I eventually underwent spinal fusion surgery which left me with 18 screws and two 10-inch titanium rods in my spine. I have met a diverse group of individuals through patient mentorship and counseling in the seven years since then and was inspired by their stories of strength in the face of great adversity. I have used the power of those stories as well as my own personal experiences as the motivation to create Ahead of the Curve.

When is your sense of humor most evident?      Growing up as the youngest of four children, I had to learn to roll with sarcasm and quick wit, so when I am with my siblings, it is most evident. Thankfully, this has served me well as a young adult.

What historical figure best represents who you are striving to be?      Because of my interest in government, law, and politics, I strive to emulate some of the qualities of powerful women in these fields who have paved the way for those to come. Some of these women are Susan B. Anthony, Nikki Haley, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

What gadget can you not live without?       MacBook and NutriBullet

What is your favorite sport and sport team?      Mississippi State Bulldogs Baseball