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Rachel Barcellona is a beauty pageant contestant and autism advocate currently Miss Manatee River and competing in the Miss Florida pageant. She also was Miss Florida International in 2016 and Miss Southeast International in 2017. She's also the first contestant to compete in Miss Florida with autism and first for Miss America since Alexis Wineman in 2013.
Barcellona was diagnosed under the autism spectrum at the age of 3. She was told that she would never graduate any school really or have any friends. Pretty much everything bad was going to happen to her because had autism. She credits her mother, a nurse practitioner, as a driving force in her young life. Barcellona has been competing in pageants since the age of five. But she took a break from the glitzy competitions during middle school after experiencing anxiety and depression. A friend persuaded her to get back into the contests when she was attending Dunedin High School. Completing in pageant helped Barcellona make friends and build confidence. She has made over 300 appearances in 2017 to promote the cause. She's currently a student at University of South Florida majoring in Communications and English. She is the International Spokesperson for the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at the University of Florida (CARD-USF), and was recently elected to their executive board of directors and she was also named the Ambassador for the Unicorn Children's Foundation and work closely with this international organization to help people with neurodiversity, a member of the International Thespian Honor Society, an honor student and vocalist and love to sing opera. Barcellona sang at Madison Square Gardens and Amalie Arena multiple times. In April 2019, Barcellona spoke at the United Nations' World Autism Awareness Day event at the agency's New York City headquarters. She discussed her experiences growing up with neurodiversity, and described how the world of pageants helped her "come out of her shell."
- Ray Sanchez. "A contestant with autism will make history in the Miss Florida pageant". https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/08/us/miss-florida-pageant-contestant-autism-trnd/index.html. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
- Katherine Hignett. "Who is Rachel Barcellona? Tampa Bay Woman will be the first Miss Florida Contestant with Autism". https://www.newsweek.com/miss-florida-autism-rachel-barcellona-pageant-miss-america-1442785. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
- Blake Alsup. "First contestant with autism set to compete in Miss Florida pageant". https://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/ny-first-contestant-with-autism-compete-miss-florida-pageant-20190608-5hz7sp44afdebgyf3tcnhp25ny-story.html. Retrieved 12 June 2019.
- Leda Alvim. "USF student with autism will compete in Miss Florida pageant". http://www.usforacle.com/news/view.php/1038833/USF-student-with-autism-will-compete-in-. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
- Rachel Barcellona. "Rachel Barcellona's story". http://www.dyspraxiausa.org/stories/rachel-barcellonas-story/. Retrieved 12 June 2019.