When CIRI shareholder Jessica Fulton was earning her psychology degree at the University of Alaska-Anchorage (UAA), the prospects of earning educational scholarships drew her into the world of pageantry. Entering her first competition at the age of 22, Fulton started notching a string of victories. In 2009, she won the evening gown and interview competition and earned the title of Miss Chugiak – Eagle River. From there, it was on to the Miss Alaska competition where she was the first runner-up, which came with the title of Miss Alaska Sweetheart. Not only did it land her in a national competition, but those scholarships she had heard about came rolling in – full-ride scholarships at UAA for two years.
Fulton earned her degree and landed a job at CIRI, all the while staying active in pageant competitions and in 2012, she earned the title of Miss Alaska. The title means Fulton will represent Alaska in the July 4th Miss United States pageant in Washington, D.C. To be successful in the competition, Fulton said, competitors have to describe the priorities they would pursue if selected. For Fulton, it is her passion in her platform “Mentoring for Academic Success.”
“When I attended high school at Holy Rosary Academy, because the student body was so small, the school emphasized mentoring younger students,” Fulton said. “I have benefited from tutors in my education and I understand the importance of a mentor in a student’s life. Often times, it just takes one person to steer them away from a detrimental path.”
Fulton acknowledges she has benefited from strong role models in her life. When she was 18, Fulton served a summer internship working for Senator Lisa Murkowski. She said the experience allowed her to witness how the senator was a strong voice for Alaska in the nation’s capital. But, Fulton said, her number one mentor is her aunt, CIRI shareholder Barbara Donatelli. Donatelli, the senior vice president at CIRI, raised Fulton. She instilled a strong set of values and encouraged Fulton’s determination.
“Being Alaska Native gives me a great deal of pride,” said Fulton. “My grandmother, Grace Murphy, was orphaned at a young age and grew up in the Jesse Lee Home in Seward. Knowing of my family’s struggles and to see how far we have come since then, pushes me to want to do more. I want to set even higher standards for my children and I want to be a great example.”
While planning for the Washington, D.C. pageant in July, for which she is still seeking sponsors, Fulton is also mapping out her next academic pursuit. She begins her master’s program in the field of mental health counseling in the fall of 2013. By then, she just might be wearing the Miss United States crown.
The mission of CIRI is to promote the economic and social well-being and Alaska Native heritage of our Shareholders, now and into the future, through prudent stewardship of the company’s resources, while furthering self-sufficiency among CIRI Shareholders and their families.
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Cook Inlet Region, Inc. (CIRI) is one of 12 regional corporations established in Alaska by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971. CIRI is owned by over 9,200 Shareholders, primarily of Athabascan, Southeast Indian, Inupiat, Yup’ik, Alutiiq/Sugpiaq and Aleut/Unangax descent.