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Newly crowned Miss Teen USA to fight bullying

Beginning when she was 12 years old, Logan West endured being relentlessly bullied for being a biracial child.

Six years later, West has made history as the first contestant from Connecticut to be crowned Miss Teen USA, an honor that she received during a ceremony in the Bahamas on Saturday. With her increased visibility, West looks to use her platform to continue speaking out against bullying after having spent the past two years talking to elementary and middle school students in Connecticut about the issue.

“This is a huge issue to me,’’ West told TODAY.com. “Students have been very receptive to the message because it’s a difference between being talked at by a teacher than hearing it from me. I’m a teenager, and I’ve been through it. I was bullied starting at 12 years old and look what I am now.’’

As a middle-schooler and high school freshman, West said she was bullied for “not acting her skin color.” She was punched, kicked and stabbed with umbrellas by a group of bullies until it escalated into a fight where she was suspended from school. During her suspension, she came up with her own anti-bullying program that she began promoting around the state after winning the Connecticut Outstanding Teen Pageant in 2010.

“I lost who Logan was when I was being bullied, but I found that participating in pageants helped me find  ‘her’ again as well as gain the confidence to be a role model and voice for others,’’ she said. “During my reign, I hope to share with teens the importance of being true to yourself.’’

West has delivered her anti-bullying message to nearly 20,000 students across Connecticut in the past two years. She also was part of a successful lobby that helped pass a law in Connecticut that requires school faculty members to be trained in managing and identifying bullying.

“I think my work is making a difference, and now I want to target this message to every state because it’s not like there’s only bullying in Connecticut,’’ she said. “I’m just so excited to take full advantage of all the opportunities I have for being Miss Teen USA.”

On Saturday, the Southington, Conn., native topped a field of 15 finalists to win Miss Teen USA, edging out Miss West Virginia Teen USA, Elizabeth Sabatino, to capture the crown. After graduating from the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts this year, she plans on living in New York City and attending the New York Film Academy on the scholarship provided by her Miss Teen USA victory. She also will continue to promote her anti-bullying program and will work with organizations like Best Buddies, Project Sunshine, Girl Talk and Same Sky Trade Initiative.

As part of her victory, West will also receive a year-long salary as Miss Teen USA and will represent the organization at numerous events like movie premieres, Broadway shows and launch parties. West competed in her first pageant when she was five years old and has steadily worked her way up the ranks before receiving the prestigious honor on Saturday.

“I never thought it would be me,’’ she said. “I’m on cloud nine right now.”

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