Olivia Johnson couldn’t believe her own ears.
Johnson, a 500 Festival Princess, was listening to an announcement on who would be named Queen Scholar.
“It was surreal,” she said. “To announce Queen Scholar, a piece of the winner’s Princess application is read just before announcing the name. For those few seconds, only I knew I was the 2019 500 Festival Queen Scholar and it is those few seconds that will really stick with me. It is truly an unparalleled honor to continue to represent the 500 Festival in this capacity.”
Johnson, a 2016 Zionsville Community High School graduate and Purdue University junior, was named May 18 at the 500 Festival Breakfast at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Each 500 Festival Princess receives a $1,000 scholarship. She received an additional $1,500 educational scholarship from Fifth Third Bank.
“The best part of the program is having the opportunity to be a part of a stronghold of 33 unique and driven young women,” Johnson said. “The 500 Festival Princess Program provides a platform for us to transform our passions into a reality. For me, I’ve had the chance to broadcast my love for global conservation, specifically orangutan and palm oil conservation. Whether doing an outreach with preschoolers at an elementary school or with residents at a nursing home, I feel like I can work the topic of orangutans into the conversation.”
Johnson, who works as a part-time interpreter at the Indianapolis Zoo, said one of the most impactful parts of the program has been the leadership roles and the chance to share her platform.
“Our globe and all things that live on it needs our help,” she said. “I have a high level of energy and I am always excited to share ways we can make global conservation efforts a reality from right here in Indiana.”
As part of her job, she works in the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center.
“To me, the 11 orangutans that call Indy home are like family,” Johnson said. “Through the Princess Program, I have had the chance to talk with thousands of community members in Indiana and the city of Indianapolis. I love opening the dialogue about the palm oil crisis in Southeast Asia that is threatening the habitat of hundreds of animals, orangutans being a big one. I always encourage people to download the Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping app to learn ways to save animals.”