Miss America's Outstanding Teen visits Syracuse

Miss America's Outstanding Teen, Leah Sykes, and Miss New York's Outstanding Teen, Krysta Prehoda, sign autographs during Friday night's Sryacuse Crunch game.

Sixteen-year-old Leah Sykes's life has changed dramatically since being crowned Miss America's Outstanding Teen in August.

The Jacksonville, Florida native has spent time touring the country, and is spending her weekend in Syracuse with Miss America Nina Davuluri.

Sykes only began competing in pageants in January 2013, never expecting to win a national competition.

"I said I wanted to try this Florida's Outstanding Teen thing, thinking I might get to the state level," Sykes explained. "But my head never went straight to 'I wanna do this Miss America Outstanding teen thing' because I never thought I'd get this far."

Sykes now travels nationwide, and began her Syracuse trip with a Friday afternoon visit to the Onondaga County Library. Sykes uses visits like this one as a way to connect with young girls.

"I have little girls who are following me on my Instagram and are always asking me these different questions, so it's cool to be able to see how they look up to me as a role model," Sykes said.

Following her library visit, Sykes joined Miss New York's Outstanding Teen, 17-year-old Krysta Prehoda of Saratoga, at the Syracuse Crunch game. The pair signed autographs, and Sykes sang during the game's second intermission.

Prehoda hopes to follow in Nina Davuluri's footsteps.

"Nina's like my big sister, and she used to be an Outstanding Teen, so she's been my mentor throughout this entire thing," explained Prehoda. "And she came down to Orlando at Miss America's Outstanding Teen and talked me through and was just an amazing role model."

Sykes said she will be using her scholarship money from the Miss America organization to help pay for private college. Both Sykes and Prehoda said they are considering competing in the Miss America pageant in the future.