May 21, 2022
The 500 Festival today announces that Melissa Aceves of Columbus, IN, has been named the 2022 Marlyne Sexton 500 Festival Queen Scholar. The announcement was made at the 500 Festival Breakfast at the Brickyard, presented by Midwestern Engineers, Inc., held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Aceves is a 2022 graduate of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and earned a degree in community health. She was actively involved in the Undergraduate Student Government and the Chancellors Student Advisory Board. She also passionately served on the Alliance for Immigrant Justice, in which she dedicated her involvement to community service, cultural awareness, and education. Aceves is a graduate of Columbus North High School.
Aceves is one of 33 Indiana college-aged women selected for the 2022 500 Festival Princess Program, presented by The National Bank of Indianapolis, in which they serve as ambassadors for the 500 Festival, their hometowns, and their colleges and universities. Serving as a 500 Festival Princess provides young women with countless opportunities for leadership, networking, and professional development. The 500 Festival Princesses have had the opportunity to participate in the 500 Festival Leadership Development Program, presented by BKD, which empowers participants to make a profound impact within their community and Indiana. In the months leading up to May, the 500 Festival Princesses perform outreaches with community organizations, volunteer at 500 Festival events, and participate in various Indianapolis Motor Speedway functions.
Each 500 Festival Princess receives a $1,000 scholarship, made possible by Marlyne Sexton, an Indianapolis philanthropist and president of The Sexton Companies, and the 500 Festival Foundation. In addition, each 500 Festival Princess is gifted with a custom pendant, courtesy of Khamis Fine Jewelers.
“More than three times a week, I get the opportunity to watch the sky rise or set coming from a Princess Program event,” said Aceves. “As I gaze at the sunset/sunrise, the many colors fill my heart with warmth, happiness, and grief. The day of orientation was my dad's 3rd anniversary since his death, but there wasn't anywhere else I wanted to be. I felt like I honored my dad by spending the day learning about the opportunities to make an impact on the lives of our community.”
“As a 500 Festival Princess, I had the courage to tell my story at Brookes Place with teenagers and children who lost their parents, siblings, or grandparents. I promised a 5-year-old girl who lost her parents, who hugged me and told me she never wanted to let go. I promised a 14-year-old boy who spoke about his loved one for the first time and expressed that his mom loved cars. I promised the children at Brookes Place that I would apply to be the Marlyne Sexton 500 Festival Queen Scholar. A key message I have learned and will take to my life is that although being vulnerable is difficult, that is how we can connect and transform our pain into hope and love for our community.”
As the Marlyne Sexton 500 Festival Queen Scholar, Aceves is the recipient of an additional $1,500 educational scholarship from the 500 Festival Foundation. She will wear the one-of-a-kind Marlyne Sexton 500 Festival Queen Scholar’s crown at 500 Festival events and the Indianapolis 500 and participate in a variety of activities throughout the week, including the Indianapolis 500 pre-race and Victory Circle celebrations. She will continue to represent the 500 Festival at various functions throughout the year.
The 2022 500 Festival Princesses represent 15 Indiana colleges and universities and 22 cities and towns across the state. With a cumulative GPA of 3.62, this year’s 500 Festival Princesses were selected from hundreds of applicants based on communication skills, academic performance, community involvement, commitment to service, and leadership
Support of the 500 Festival Princess Program is provided by: The National Bank of Indianapolis, Marlyne Sexton, BKD, Khamis Fine Jewelers, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Vera Bradley, and the 500 Festival Foundation.
To learn more about the 500 Festival Princess Program, presented by The National Bank of Indianapolis, please visit 500festival.com/Princess or search #PrincessProgram on social media.
NOTE: To download photos of Aceves and the Breakfast at the Brickyard event, click here.
Individual and group photos can be downloaded here.
About the 500 Festival | Founded in 1957, the 500 Festival is a not-for-profit organization that produces more than 50 life-enriching events and programs while celebrating the spirit and legacy of the Indianapolis 500® and fostering a positive impact on the city of Indianapolis and state of Indiana. One of the largest festivals in the nation, each year more than half a million people attend an event or program produced by the 500 Festival. Since its founding, the 500 Festival has contributed more than $500 million in economic value to Indianapolis. To learn more about the 500 Festival, please visit 500festival.com or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.