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Miss Georgia -- from Suwanee -- talks pageant, working and more

Photo: Matt Boyd Photography Leighton Jordan of Suwanee has worn the crown of Miss Georgia since last June. She continues to dedicate her time to community service and looks forward to earning her nursing degree.

Photo: Matt Boyd Photography Leighton Jordan of Suwanee has worn the crown of Miss Georgia since last June. She continues to dedicate her time to community service and looks forward to earning her nursing degree.

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Photo: Miss America Pageant staff Leighton Jordan of Suwanee has worn the crown of Miss Georgia since last June. She continues to dedicate her time to community service and looks forward to earning her nursing degree.

SUWANEE -- Leighton Jordan of Suwanee didn't grow up competing in pageants and didn't know what to expect when she won the title of Miss Georgia 2012 last June.

"First and foremost, it's been incredible," she said. "There have been so many opportunities that have come my way that I didn't expect. It's been a busy year. Even exhausting at some points."

The 20-year-old travels around on the weekends, making appearances at hospitals, festivals, benefits and other events in the state. These are only some of her duties with the crown.

The Miss America Organization is partnered with Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, so she visits with the children, but her personal platform is the Sibling Support Project, a national effort dedicated to the lifelong concerns of brothers and sisters of people with special needs.

"I have a special-needs brother. I have seen many struggles that he, my other brother and I go through daily," Jordan said. "I want to educate other siblings like myself that we are our disabled sibling's best friend, worst enemy, confidant, punching bag, role model and forever partner in life."

In January, Jordan traveled to the Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas. She didn't come home with a new title, although she did come home with other valuable lessons.

"I learned that my identity is a whole lot more than I thought I was," she said. "Before I used to equate my identity to a ballet dancer, then as a student. Now after two years of competing and growing, I realized that the title behind my name has no bearing on who I am. Now I know that I just want to help others."

Since winning the title of Miss Georgia, Jordan has to take a year off from school, due to her contract with the pageant. With her scholarship money, she's looking at universities to attend, but nothing is set in stone for the fall semester.

"I will be in school in August," she said. "I'm not sure where yet, but it will be for my nursing degree."

She is pursuing a career as a pediatric oncology nurse particitioner.

But any more pageants?

"No, I'm done," Jordan said with a laugh. "It was fun few years and the scholarship money is appreciated. I will always give back to the (Miss America) organization, but I'm done with the stage."

The next Miss Georgia Pageant is June 19-22.