Each year 33 collegiate women from Indiana are chosen as 500 Festival Princesses for the month of 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 2021 Indianapolis 500.
Meet the 10 princesses chosen from IU’s campuses:
Elizabeth Cornejo is a junior majoring in civic leadership with an emphasis in community leadership and nonprofit management in the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IUPUI. She plans to become a lawyer and work in policy change. “I am most looking forward to being able to engage with my community and see what all the other amazing princesses and I accomplish this year for the 500 Festival.”
She also has a story that might make sports fans jealous.
“I shook hands with Shaquille O’Neil at Lollapalooza,” Cornejo said. “I swear my whole hand could wrap around his thumb.”
Isra Haider is a senior at IUPUI majoring in biology in the School of Science and sociology in the School of Liberal Arts, as well as minoring in population health sciences. She is interested in health law and policy and starts law school in the fall.
“A fun fact about me is that I was only 17 when I voted in the 2016 general election,” she said. “I turned 18 four days before Election Day but voted a week early, so I was still only 17.”
Haider said she is looking forward to connecting with community organizations and raising awareness. “Throughout my time at IUPUI, I have been involved with Women4Change @IUPUI, which advocates for positive change for Hoosier women. I am looking forward to using my role as a 500 Festival Princess to facilitate programming for girls and women.”
Mikaela Jennings is a senior studying accounting and finance in the Kelley School of Business at IU Bloomington.
She said she plans to start her career in Indianapolis in the fall with a public accounting firm in the audit industry. She is also an aunt to two nephews.
“I am most looking forward to gaining 32 amazing friends as we further the philanthropic message of the 500 festival,” she said.
Elizabeth Martine is a sophomore studying entrepreneurship and corporate innovation paired with international business in the Kelley School of Business at IU Bloomington. Her career goal is to start her own business or work as a chief marketing officer at a corporation, she said.
“As a 500 Festival Princess, I am really looking forward to the outreaches I have planned within my communities,” Martine said.
Andrea Peterson is a junior majoring in finance and business analytics in the Kelley School of Business at IU Bloomington and is planning a career in alternative investments and banking. She said one of her childhood heroes was Danica Patrick, who has her own ties to the Indianapolis 500 as a former driver.
“I am looking forward to planning outreaches across Indiana, giving back to the community and representing the 500 Festival in the foremost light,” Peterson said.
Rachel Ploss is a senior in the 4+1 master’s program, studying philanthropic studies in the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at IUPUI, with a certificate in nonprofit management. She plans to become a fundraiser for an animal welfare nonprofit. She said her two rescue cats are a huge source of joy for her, and she thinks animals are essential in helping people’s mental health as well as social relationships and exercise.
Ploss is no stranger to pageantry: She served as an emcee at the national 4-H Congress Youth Leadership Team, where she escorted Miss America 2018 Cara Mund to the dinner gala.
“As a 500 Festival Princess, I am most looking forward to bringing joy to people of all ages throughout the state of Indiana,” Ploss said. “There is no other sporting event like the Indy 500, and the events put on by the 500 Festival bring the whole state together and bring so much excitement during the month of May.”
Janae Quinn is a junior majoring in elementary education in the School of Education at IU Kokomo, with a minor in mathematics in the School of Sciences. She wants to find a local teaching position in Indiana and share her passion for Indiana history while also emphasizing STEM concepts in the classroom.
Quinn loves to sew and started sewing face masks for her community during the pandemic. She also created a panel skirt with a racing flag pattern that was featured on the NBC broadcast of the 2020 Indianapolis 500.
“I first learned about the 500 Festival Princess Program when I was an elementary student,” she said. “I want to be THAT princess that makes long-lasting impressions on the younger generations of children through classroom visits and community outreaches.”
Elizabeth Score is a sophomore majoring in law and public policy in the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU Bloomington, with a minor in public management. She plans to attend law school in fall 2023 and become a practicing attorney. In her spare time, Score loves to lift weights and wakeboard.
“I am looking forward to partnering with organizations in the Hoosier community that are doing amazing work already to elevate their impact and voice and hopefully provide life-enriching opportunities as a 500 Festival Princess through them,” she said.
Rebecca Townsend is a senior at IU Bloomington majoring in economic consulting with a co-major in law, ethics and decision-making in the Kelley School of Business. After graduation, she will be moving to Chicago to work as an application program analyst for Deloitte in hopes of becoming a technology consultant.
“I’m most looking forward to promoting the mission of the 500 Festival and volunteering with young children who have the ability to make real change in our state and community,” she said.
Gloria Xue is a graduate student in the IU School of Medicine majoring in cellular and integrative physiology, with plans to become a physician. She also has experience with another 500: She raced in the Little 500 cycling race as an undergraduate student.
“I am most looking forward to giving back to the communities that helped me become who I am today, especially in the trying times that we are facing currently,” she said.