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PECS teacher, aka Miss Florida USA, helps raise diabetes awareness

Taylor Fulford competes in the Miss USA pageant Oct. 3 in Reno, Nevada. (Photo via Miss Florida USA Instagram)

Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 14, Taylor Fulford now has a platform to bring more awareness to and advocate for the 1.45 million Americans who have the disease.

Fulford, a kindergarten teacher at Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School on the Brighton Reservation, won the Miss Florida USA crown in May. She served as proof that perseverance pays off; this was the eighth try in the competition for the 28-year-old from Okeechobee.

“It was never just about winning,” Fulford said. “The progress I made each time, the life skills, friendships and memories I made are so much more than a crown. The journey made me who I am today.”

That journey continued Oct. 3 in Reno, Nevada, where she represented Florida in the Miss USA pageant. Although she didn’t win – the winner was R’Bonney Gabriel from Texas – Fulford made history as the first woman to walk across the Miss USA stage wearing an insulin pump.

“I felt honored to wear my state across my chest and my insulin pump on my hip,” she wrote in a post on Instagram. “For me this was a win in itself. Walking on stage as representation for the T1D community and for anyone else who has chased a life long dream… this is your sign don’t give up. If I can do it so can you.”

Fulford, who said it has been a process to learn to live with Type 1 diabetes, volunteers with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to help raise money. She will be the grand marshal at the JDRF Community One Walk in West Palm Beach on Nov. 6.

“It hasn’t been an easy journey. The hardest part is being confident in the skin I’m in, learning to love my imperfections and wearing an insulin pump,” Fulford said. “I wanted to push myself to compete to show others that having an illness doesn’t define you and doesn’t stop you from chasing your dreams.”

She founded Crowns for a Cure, a nonprofit which has raised more than $30,000 for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. She also started the Own Your Sparkle initiative to promote self-confidence and poise. She has mentored more than 140 girls from age 4 to 18 and hopes to inspire them to pursue their own dreams.

Fulford said she has loved every minute of her pageant years, including the friendships she’s made.

“Getting to meet all of my sister queens, the other girls from other states is my biggest takeaway from this journey,” Fulford said. “They are all beautiful, outstanding and accomplished young women. The sisterhood has been great. You are what you surround yourself with.”

She has been teaching for five years and loves the support she gets from her students and the school.

“The students tease me about being the queen of Florida,” Fulford said. “They were cheering me on when I went to Miss Florida USA and they tell me I’m their Miss USA. They have been awesome and the support I’ve gotten from my PECS family has be truly invaluable.”

Serving as Miss Florida USA has been a time consuming endeavor, which Fulford loves. Every weekend she is either appearing somewhere in the state or planning her next appearance. She will continue to serve until the next Miss Florida USA pageant May 13 and May 14, 2023.

“I tell girls to enter, it will change your life even if you don’t win,” Fulford said.

Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at