TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - Somewhere, there's a doctor eating their words.
Rachel Barcellona was 3 when she and her parents found out she is on the autism spectrum.
"They clearly said, she is never going to have any friends, she is never going to amount to anything," recalled Barcellona. "My mom just said 'That's not true!'"
She is now a public speaker, college student, beauty queen and occasional national anthem singer for the Lightning. She is also considered to be highly-functioning on the autism spectrum.
"I didn't want to be a victim," she said. "This is a part of my life and I am sticking to it."
The USF communications major will take her biggest stage yet on April 1.
"I got the opportunity to speak to the UN," she said.
She will give a speech as part of a panel discussion for World Autism Day. She will answer questions and, she hopes, break stereotypes.
"We have been saddled with this bad portrayal with autistic people are very smart, they're geniuses, or they're stupid, they're obsessive," she said. "Those portrayals don't show the reality."
Her message to those who are on the spectrum is don't listen to the words "you can't" or "you won't." She hopes to write books, compete in the Miss America pageant, sing, and show the world that "hiding" is the worst word of all.
"I am bringing a message of hope," she said. "That is what I have always done. Even if you have a disability of any kind, it should not stop you from achieving your dreams."
The Global Autism Project invited her to the UN.
They say she is the perfect ambassador for their mission because of her passion in promoting the acceptance and integration of people with autism.
Once again, she will sing the national anthem for the Lightning before their game on March 30.