TYLER, TX (KLTV) - When the Miss America pageant airs on ABC this Sunday night, friends and family of a Tyler ISD elementary school teacher will be cheering her on to victory.
Madison Fuller, 23, a kindergarten teacher at Jack Elementary, graduated from Texas A&M University and is representing Texas in the 97th year of the national competition held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This is the first year the pageant does not have a swimsuit competition.
"Well I love East Texas, and I consider my hometown of Fairfield to be East Texas as well, but the support from a small town community like Tyler, there's nothing like it," Fuller said in July, after she was selected to compete. Fuller was named Miss Texas in July.
The preliminary competition began Wednesday with an on-stage interview portion. Fuller was one of several contestants asked for their opinion of the kneeling protests at NFL games.
"Is kneeling during the anthem in protest an act of freedom of speech, or disrespect for the country?" the interviewer asked.
"I do believe that when the NFL players are kneeling they are standing up for what they believe in, however I do think that there is an avenue to do that in a way that they can promote change, tangibly, not by doing it during the national anthem but actually providing change so that they no longer have to face this issue," Fuller said.
The final night of the competition airs at 9 p.m. Eastern/8 p.m. Central on Sunday, Sept. 9 with hosts Carrie Ann Inaba and Ross Matthews.
Judges are Randy Jackson, Soledad O'Brien, Alli Webb, Carnie Wilson, Bobby Bones, Jessie James Decker and Laila Ali.
Fuller's social impact initiative for the Miss America pageant is Sock it To Cancer, a pediatric cancer awareness campaign, and her talent is ventriloquism.