INDIANA – Each year 33 collegiate women from Indiana are chosen to serve as a 500 Festival Princess for the 500 Festival Princess Program, presented by The National Bank of Indianapolis. The women serve as ambassadors of the 500 Festival in May and throughout the year.
These women are selected based on an interview process highlighting their education, extracurricular activities, and passion to serve the 500 Festival. They are busy planning community outreaches and, of course, celebrating the 2022 Indianapolis 500.
Meet the 13 princesses chosen from IU’s campuses:
Melissa Aceves is a senior at IUPUI majoring in community health, with a minor in civic leadership and a certificate in nonprofit management in the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health. Her career goal is to create programs and policies that alleviate the psychological stress experienced by minority populations.
“I am looking forward to making a long-lasting impact on the community and children. I love to see individuals smile and discover new topics about the world. Creating change through community outreach and making others feel welcome is what I love most about the program!”
Aceves is community-focused and passionate about getting justice for immigrants.
“I am a community organizer with Alliance for Immigrant Justice and love to create, plan and implement initiatives, projects and programs,” she said.
Gabbie Black is a freshman studying exercise science at the School of Public Health-Bloomington. She plans to earn her master’s degree in athletic training and become an athletic trainer in professional sports.
“I am looking forward to where my community outreach events can take me and race weekend,” she said.
Something people close to Black may not know is that she is a fan of the “High School Musical” movies.
“My favorite ‘High School Musical’ movie is the third one,” Black said.
Jayden Emenhiser is a freshman studying biology at IU Kokomo. After graduation, she aspires to become an orthopedic doctor.
“I’m most looking forward to the service-oriented aspect of the 500 Festival, attending events that advocate for community service and engagement for youth,” she said.
Emenhiser spent a lot of her childhood as an active member of 4-H in her hometown.
“I was a 10-year 4-H member in Tippecanoe County,” Emenhiser said.
Caroline Gretencord is a senior majoring in speech, language and hearing science and in Spanish in Bloomington. Upon graduation, she plans to attend graduate school to be a bilingual speech-language pathologist.
“I am looking forward to getting to know the other 32 princesses and experiencing an event I have attended most of my life,” she said. “I am also excited for the wonderful opportunities and events I will be a part of through the 500 Festival Princess Program.”
Gretencord is no stranger to the Indianapolis 500.
“I’ve been to the Indianapolis 500 race 15 times,” she said.
Juliana Hand is a sophomore majoring in game design, with a minor in Spanish and East Asian studies, in Bloomington. She intends to work for Triple-A companies before creating her own games with her own indie company.
“I am most looking forward to representing and being a voice for my community,” she said.
Not only is Hand skilled in game design, but she also knows tae kwon do.
“I studied tae kwon do for a little over 10 years and received my fourth-degree black belt,” she said.
Madeline Heath is a sophomore majoring in marketing at the Kelley School of Business, with a minor in studio art. She hopes to go into marketing for nonprofit organizations.
“I am most excited to see how the Indiana community will come together as things are back in person,” she said. “The Festival Foundation has a lot of amazing events and programming planned, and I feel very lucky to be a part of it.”
When Heath is not studying marketing, she likes to put her artistic skills to the test.
“A fun fact is that I design and sell clothes for charity,” Heath said.
Elainy McCoy is a senior majoring in nursing at IUPUI. After graduation, she plans to work in the emergency department as a registered nurse while returning to school to obtain her Doctor of Nursing Practice.
“The thing that I am looking forward to most through this program is working alongside 32 other incredible wome within our communities and celebrate the spirit and legacy of the Indianapolis 500 Festival while fostering a positive impact on the city of Indianapolis and the entire state of Indiana,” she said.
While working toward her degree, McCoy is also working outside the classroom and getting first-hand experience.
“I have been a certified emergency medical technician for just over two years now and have worked as an EMT throughout the last several semesters of nursing school, McCoy said.
Risha Mehta is a junior double majoring in psychology and neuroscience with a minor in public health on the pre-med track in Bloomington. After graduating, she plans to attend medical school to become a doctor.
“I am looking forward to gaining 32 new friends, planning outreach events and spreading the message of the 500 Festival,” she said. “It is such an exciting festival with an incredible history, and I am excited to spread the message and have others join in on the fun.”
When Mehta is not studying, she loves to travel and visit other countries.
“I love to travel and have been to over 10 countries. My favorite place I have traveled to was Kenya, where I went on an African safari,” Mehta said.
Unnathi Nayak is a junior majoring in management, marketing and international business, with a minor in economics, at IUPUI. Upon graduating, she plans to work for a couple of years to gain business experience and increase her leadership skills. After some experience in the workforce, she hopes to start her own company and be an entrepreneur like her mother.
“I am looking forward to getting more involved in the Indiana community, and I want to use my background as an international student to inspire other diverse students to become a part of this amazing program as well,” she said,
Nayak is a big animal lover and grew up surrounded by many pets.
“I have had four different types of pets growing up. I had parrots, turtles, a dog and cats,” she said.
Yuki Oshima is a senior global and international studies major with minors in French and global health at IUPUI. She plans to attend law school after graduation with the hopes of practicing health care law.
“I am most looking forward to getting to know 32 other academic-driven women and meeting more people,” she said. “I am excited that I can be a part of this program and have an opportunity to share this with those people from my hometown in Japan.”
Oshima is from Utsnomiya, Japan, and she knows several languages.
“I can speak four languages: English, Japanese, Chinese and French,” Oshima said.
Meghana Reddy is a senior studying finance and international business, with a minor in informatics in Bloomington. She has already secured a job after college and will be working in investment banking at Moelis & Co. in New York City.
“I am most looking forward to working alongside 32 amazing women to promote the mission of the 500 Festival,” she said “The Indy 500 makes May one of the most exciting times to be a Hoosier, so to pair that energy with philanthropic outreaches that make a lasting impact in our community is truly something incredible.”
Reddy was able to study abroad this academic year and had some notable experiences.
“I went to Fashion Week when I studied abroad in Milan last semester, and I saw Giorgio Armani, Niall Horan and Becky G,” Reddy said.
Leigh Anne Roth
Leigh Ann Roth is a junior studying pre-optometry in Bloomington. She has already been accepted into IU’s early admissions optometry program and will be starting optometry school this fall.
“I am looking forward to making lifelong relationships with the people I meet throughout this experience, as well as bettering my community,” she said. “I am also really excited for the events that we have planned.”
Roth said her own struggles are the reason she is passionate about optometry.
“I have a cataract in my right eye, which is what got me interested in being an optometrist, as well as the ability to help others,” Roth said.
Mary-Matalyn Tom is a senior majoring in biochemistry, with a minor in music at Indiana University Kokomo. After graduating this year, she plans to attend law school to become a patent attorney.
“I am most excited to be a part of the many health initiative events that the 500 Festival organizes, and I am excited to organize my outreach events to pay forward all the opportunities Indiana has afforded to me,” she said. “I am also looking forward to being a part of the Indy 500 Race, as my family immigrated in 1912 to Speedway, Indiana, and has attended every race since then.”
Tom has been musically talented from a young age and spends her free time with her band.
“I have played the violin since I was 3 years old, and I sing in a band in the Kokomo and Indianapolis area,” Tom said.
Information: IU Today: Samantha Hyde is an intern with IU Studios. All photos are courtesy of the 500 Festival Princess Program.