In an uplifting story out of Minnesota, 22-year-old Mikayla Holmgren became the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in the state’s Miss USA pageant on Sunday night, and reportedly cried from joy after she won the Spirit of Miss USA award. Holmgren, a Bethel University student from Stillwater, Minnesota, had previously competed in special needs pageant Minnesota Miss Amazing in 2015.
“You exude the spirit of Miss USA by always being true to yourself and putting others first,” said Denise Heitkamp, executive state director of Miss Minnesota USA, after presenting Holmgren with the Spirit Award. “You have selflessness, humility and the ability to overcome obstacles with a smile on your face and excitement in your heart.”
Holmgren, a lifelong dancer, performed a dance piece for her talent portion of the competition and also came away with the competition’s Director’s Award. In October, she wrote on Facebook that she hopes to “teach art to young children … to model … to live independently and continue to be an advocate for inclusion.”
Being able to participate in the pageant, Holmgren said, meant the world to her.
“I was super shocked, I was in tears,” she told Buzzfeed. “I went from a special needs pageant to the biggest pageant in the world. It’s kind of crazy.”
Watch video of Holmgren below.
Read the full story at The Huffington Post.