05/15/2012 01:43 EDT | Updated 07/15/2012 05:12 EDT

Jenna Talackova, Transgendered Miss Universe Canada Contestant, Says She's 'In It To Win It'

TORONTO - Vancouver's transgendered Miss Universe Canada contestant feels like she's already triumphed by earning the chance to compete at this weekend's pageant. But make no mistake: she also plans on making a serious run for the ultimate prize.

Jenna Talackova said this morning that the beauty competition will be "a great battle" and that she's "in it to win it."

Talackova and her 61 fellow contestants appeared at a Toronto school this morning to encourage kids to work hard and follow their dreams.

Talackova says she's proud to be opening the door for other transgender pageant hopefuls who may want to follow in her footsteps.

The blond beauty ignited a media firestorm after she was initially disqualified from the pageant because she isn't a naturally born female.

But pageant owner Donald Trump overruled the decision and said Talackova could take part.

Today's event was part of several public appearances scheduled in advance of the Miss Universe Canada pageant in Toronto, which will crown a winner Saturday night.

"If it works out, then great. If not, I'm so proud of myself," Talackova said after greeting hundreds of students.

"I've won in so many other ways that I feel good about."

Talackova underwent sex-change surgery at age 19 and has said she knew from an early age that she was born the wrong gender.

She says she has a boyfriend and hopes to have two kids some day, but she didn't initially tell him she was born male.

"I've set a precedent for a lot of women in my situation so once I step on that stage every woman in every other country that doesn't have the option I have now can fight for it. I feel so blessed with this opportunity," Talackova said.