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Mikayla Holmgren becomes 1st woman with Down syndrome to compete in a Miss USA pageant

ABOVE: A 22-year-old Minnesota woman is the first woman with Down Syndrome to compete in a Miss USA pageant.

A 22-year-old Minnesota woman has become the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in the state’s Miss USA pageant.

Mikayla Holmgren is a student at Bethel University in Saint Paul.

“I want the world to know that Down syndrome does not define me,” Holmgren wrote on her GoFundMePage. “With your help, I can help break through walls.”

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Holmgren received the spirit award and the director’s award at Sunday night’s pageant at the Ames Center in Burnsville. The audience gave her a standing ovation as she accepted the awards.

Holmgren, from Marine on St. Croix, was dressed in a royal-blue gown with a train. She shed tears of joy and said she was “so excited.”

READ MORE: Toronto cops recorded mocking woman with Down syndrome plead guilty to misconduct

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Holmgren is not new to the competition world. According to KARE, an NBC affiliate in Minneapolis, she won the title of Minnesota Junior Miss Amazing in 2015.

Her GoFundMe account has so far raised $5,569, and was set up months ago to cover unexpected costs associated with her participation in the pageant.

“I am an advocate for individuals with Down syndrome,” Holmgren said. “I love being on stage, mostly as a dancer. I choreograph my own dances.”

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“She’s an ambassador. She’s going to be a leader and stands firm for others that maybe don’t know how to achieve things,” Holmgren’s mother, Sandi Holmgren, said in April of 2017 when she announced her intention to enter the pageant.

“Hats off to the selection committee for taking a broader picture and looking back and saying, look at her credentials and say let’s go for it,” added Craig Holmgren, Holmgren’s father.

— With files from Reuters and the Associated Press