The Miss Universe pageant is always inspiring for audiences who watch, but Miss Minnesota USA continues to break barriers and bring diversity to the table. Last year Miss Minnesota contestant Halima Aden made history being the first competitor to wear a hijab and burkini during the swimsuit round. This time around, the first contestant with down syndrome, 22-year-old Mikayla Holmgren, competed in Miss Minnesota 2017 showcasing her gymnastic and dancing talents.

Photo courtesy of Facebook- @Mikayla Holmgren.

Unfortunately, Mikayla did not win the competition, but she won two awards of the night and inspired a large following of people! She took home the Spirit Award and The Director's Award. Mikayla's parents supported her throughout her journey and are proud that her daughter's actions and talents are able to make a difference in the world.

Mikayla Holmgren competing in the Miss Minnesota pageant at the Ames Center. Photo courtesy of Twin Cities/Pioneer Press.

Some responses to Mikayla's confidence and performance on Facebook included:

*"I was born with Cerebral Palsy and you give me strength and hope!!! Thank You!!!"

*"You are a role model to me and my daughter." 

Mikayla was shocked she was included is such an enormous opportunity, but it is no surprise to those around her. Mikayla's vibrant personality and kindness towards others made her shine throughout the contest. Congrats to Mikayla for the incredible strides she made for the special needs population!

By: Alaina Pawlowicz

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