USF Student with Autism Making a Difference, Founded ‘The Ability Beyond Disability’ to Tell Her Story
By Steve Wilson // February 26, 2021
Rachel Barcellona is model, actress, author, singer and pageant winner
WATCH: Rachel Barcellona talks with Steve Wilson in the latest edition of “Sit Down with Steve.” Barcellona was diagnosed with autism at age three and has overcome enormous odds. Along with being an autism advocate, she is an actress, model, author, singer and pageant winner. She currently appears on two billboards in Times Square in NYC!
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – In many ways, she’s a typical college student. And in many ways, she’s not.
For Rachel Barcellona, a student at the University of South Florida majoring in English and Communications, this is pretty much where the typical student portion ends.
Barcellona is a model, actress, author, singer and pageant winner. And, by the way, she has autism, which was diagnosed at age three.
Her many accomplishments are being the first person with autism to compete in the Miss Florida pageant, singing at Madison Square Garden, speaking at the United Nations, having her own TV and radio shows, appearing on multiple billboards in Times Square in New York City, and starting her own charity, “The Ability Beyond Disability.”
She describes her childhood as a challenge as she was bullied in school because people looked at her as being different.
“Kids wouldn’t talk to me, they wouldn’t play with me, and that was really hard,” said Barcellona.
She is a determined young lady, and as an autism advocate, wants to “put a stop to that.”
Barcellona wants people to understand that individuals with autism are not an “other,” they are people, just like you and me.
“The Ability Beyond Disability” is the platform that she founded when she was 11-years-old to tell her story.
“Do not let society dictate who you are, or who you are going to be in life, you can accomplish so much,” said Barcellona when asked what she would tell young people diagnosed with autism.