Atmore's Rachel Ellis: 'Saw it, learned it and did it…all in one day!'
By By Janet Little Cooper
Rachel Ellis has dreamed of the day that she would walk the halls of her school as a high school senior.
The 17-year-old Escambia Academy student has been looking forward to that day since the year 2005 to be exact.
Not only would it be the end of her adolescent education, but also it would be the year that she could finally compete in the nationally recognized Junior Miss Program. The program is only available to girls entering their senior year in high school.
"In 2005, Jessie McKinley was the Junior Miss for Escambia County," Ellis said. "We were cheerleaders together that year, so I learned a lot about the program. Last year, I was Elizabeth Hendrix's little sister for Junior Miss. After Jessie and Elizabeth both participated, that was when I knew I wanted to. I have been looking forward to it since 2005!"
On Aug. 5, Ellis traveled with her parents Rob and Sonya Ellis, to Birmingham Southern College to compete in the Junior Miss At-Large Program.
The At-Large Program is for girls that do not have a local program in their County. In years past, the Escambia County program has been held in Brewton.
The At-Large Program Ellis attended had girls from Blount, Chambers, Clay, Cleburne, Coosa, Escambia, Etowah, Fayette, Geneva, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Limestone, Lowndes, Marion, Perry, Pickens, Randolph, Russell, Sumter, Wilcox and Winston Counties.
Ellis was one of only two contestants representing Escambia County.
The At-Large Program motto was "See it, Learn it, and Do it…All in one Day!" The day began early for the contestants. The girls interviewed with the judges and learned a routine for self-expression.
"Immediately after the interview, we had to change into our formal dresses," Ellis said. "When everyone was ready, we went on stage! It was a great feeling. I just wish all of my friends and family could have watched! The audition was closed, so it was the judges only in the theater."
Ellis would eventually be able to shine for her family as the day of competition progressed. But first she would have to go on stage once more to perform for the judges' eyes only for her talent routine.
"When we finished lunch, I was off to perform my talent," Ellis said. "I choreographed a hip-hop dance this summer, using our home pom cheerleading music. Dancing is something I have always loved to do, and I could not wait to perform on stage. Hip-hop is pretty much all I do. It always makes me feel good. It went very well."
Once the talent portion of the program was complete, the girls spent an hour and a half learning and perfecting a physical fitness routine that would be performed in front of not only the judges but the girls' family and friends as well.
"This was the last thing we had to do, so all of the parents were invited to watch," Ellis said. "I was very excited! We all worked together and helped each other with the routine, and it turned out great! After fitness, I packed up and said my goodbyes to all of my new friends. It was an amazing experience and I am so glad I had that opportunity."
Ellis was not only able to make new friends through her whirlwind day of competition but was able to reunite with friends she had made while she attended Girl's State this summer.
Results were not announced at the end of the competition. Ellis returned to Atmore with her family and continued her daily routine at EA. After seven excruciating days of waiting, Ellis received a letter in the mail. She had won. She was named the 2007 Escambia County Junior Miss.
"We did not find out the day of our auditions," Ellis said. "Instead, I got a letter in the mail Saturday, Aug. 12, with the good news. It was GREAT! I was so excited, and could not wait to find out more about the Alabama Junior Miss Program. My parents were with me when I opened the letter and the first two people I called were Jessie and Liz. Walton Nichols was the first person to call and congratulate me. Walton and her mom knew I was participating in the program and have been so supportive. I am honored to represent my county. I want to represent my county and the young ladies in it well. I am anxious to begin my journey."
Ellis's dream has quickly become reality. She will now go on to compete on the state level at the 2007 Alabama Junior Miss Program, held at Frazer United Methodist Church in Montgomery on Jan. 19-20. She will stay with a host family from Jan. 12 through the 21.
Ellis is wasting no time preparing for her big day.
"I got my formal dress, hip-hop costume for talent, and suit for my interview ready for pictures this past weekend," Ellis said. "Mrs. Jodi Peacock from Peacock Photography took my pictures for me, and she was wonderful. I had so much fun in her studio. My pictures and music for my talent have to be submitted 30 days from my program date for approval and there is tons of paperwork to complete. I am working with a dancer from Robinson's School of Dance in Saraland. She is helping me perfect my hip-hop routine. I have orientation in December, so I am looking forward to meeting all of the contestants then."
The winner of the January competition will go on to participate in the America's Junior Miss Program in Mobile as a representative for the state of Alabama.
Ellis, who was crowned Miss Bambino in 2001, would be thrilled to walk away as the winner of the state program, but realizes that even without the title she has already won by just being able to experience it.
"I just want to have a great time," Ellis said. "I want to walk away with many new friendships and memories. This experience will be amazing, and I also hope to learn even more about the Junior Miss Program altogether. Sure, the awards would be great. I am just so happy that I have the chance to go. I hope I learn something from everyone, and I also hope they will learn something from me. I want to show everyone who I am, and hopefully I will be one of those girls that they remember forever."
Her accomplishments are many as she enters her senior year. Ellis loves dancing, cheering and playing softball. She was a member of Youth Leadership Atmore last year, is a member of the Senior Beta Club, the Senior Class Secretary and a three-year Rotary Club Academic All-Star. She also attended Girl's State this past summer and is a member of First Baptist Church of Atmore.
Ellis is the daughter of Rob and Sonya Ellis of Atmore.
"My parents are my two most favorite people in the world," Ellis said. "They are always there for me, and do so much. They make sure I have everything I need and I love them like crazy. I always tell them, but they will never understand how much. I hope that in the future, I can do for my kids what they do for me. I love and appreciate them so much. Words just cannot describe it. Without them, I do not know what I would do. I just want to say thank you to everyone who supports me. My parents, grandparents, family, and friends. I am not able to tell everyone how much I appreciate their love and support."