TAMPA (CBSMiami/AP) — For the first time in the history of the Miss Florida pageant, a woman with autism will compete.

Rachel Barcellona, from Tampa Bay, said doctors told her she’d never graduate from high school because of her diagnosis. She says the negative feedback didn’t sit well with her.

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Barcellona began participating in pageants at age 5. She continued through much of elementary school and then quit. But she says the depression and anxiety she suffered in middle school led her back to the pageant world, where she gained confidence and made friends.

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She says when judges ask about her disability she tells them she can inspire people.

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The Miss Florida contest will be held later this month in Lakeland.