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Miss America's Outstanding Teen 2014 is Leah Sykes!

Saturday, 17 August 2013 23:19

After a week of preliminary competitions and weeks, months, or for some, years of preparation, judges of the Miss America's Outstanding Teen 2013 competition awarded Miss Florida's Outstanding Teen Leah Sykes the honor of carrying the national title and crown into 2014.

"The crown can open eyes, and I truly believe that when you open eyes, you can open minds," Leah said backstage after she received the title and $25,000 in cash scholarships from the MAOTeen organization.

Leah is a junior in homeschool. Her platform is "Seeing Beyond Disabilities," for which she works to ensure that those with mental and physical disabilities have the same opportunities as those without disabilities. One of her efforts is to create a handicap accessible beach park.

During the week of preliminary competitions, Leah expressed herself through lifestyle and fitness, on-stage question and evening wear, and talent. She is committed to living a healthy lifestyle. Leah is currently training for her second marathon. In fact, she says her favorite accessory is her teal running shoes—even though they're pretty beat up from running her first marathon. Leah also enjoys swimming and biking, and she does one hundred push ups everyday.

Although the new titleholder proves with this workout regime that she is one tough cookie, she also excels in poise and grace. In her evening gown, a pink, floor-length gown with flower petal detail at the hip, Leah glided across the stage and stood eloquently as she answered questions during preliminary and final night competitions. Judges listened to Leah's opinion on the presence of armed guards in high schools in light of recent mass shootings. Leah said armed guards should not be positioned in schools, but rather people should show encouragement to each other and "love one another. If we encourage people, we wouldn't really need armed guards at schools," she said.

During Saturday night's competition, judges asked Leah to state her favorite American freedom. Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion are high on Leah's list. "I love to practice my religion and speak about what I believe," she said.

Confidence exemplified during the on-stage question portion of competition was also displayed by the new MAOTeen titleholder during the talent competition. Singing Adele's "Someone Like You," Leah's bold voice mirrored her bold choice of song.

Following her crowning, Leah said she was humbled by the judges' choice. "I feel so out of place," she said. And yet she is thrilled to begin her year of service, especially since the soon-to-be-traveling teen has only been to three states and has never traveled by airplane. "I'm so grateful. It hasn't quite sunk in," she said. "I'm so excited to talk to so many people about what I'm passionate about."

Want to learn more about the new MAOTeen 2014? She's being featured on the cover of fourpoints magazine's October issue! More information on scholarship winners will also appear in the magazine. Subscribe today!

Written by: Erika Rose is fourpoints magainze's staff writer.