Gloria Xue is delighted with the platform being a 500 Festival Princess provides.
“I am particularly passionate about addressing racial health disparities as well as diversity and inclusion,” Xue said. “Being a 500 Festival Princess has afforded me the chance to reach out to groups in the community who are working on these issues to find volunteering opportunities and use my platform to raise awareness. So far, I have been able to conduct a virtual visit with a class at Bridgeport Elementary School (in Indianapolis), where minority enrollment is 74 percent. I am also planning to be involved with the Indiana Black & Minority Health Fair as well as the Indiana chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.”
Xue is one of three Carmel High School graduates who have been selected as one of the 33 Festival Princesses for 2021. Joining Xue are Rebecca Townsend and Grace Todd.
“The opportunity to volunteer in the community and make a positive impact, during what has been an especially challenging year, motivated me to apply to the 500 Festival Princess Program,” said Xue, a graduate student at IUPUI majoring in cellular and integrative physiology. “I really enjoyed attending the 500 Festival Parade growing up, especially because I had the opportunity to see my neighbor perform in the Chinese dragon dance. Witnessing the diverse communities of Indiana come together and celebrate was an incredible experience for me.”
Townsend has attended the Indianapolis 500 nearly every year since she was 5 years old.
“The connection to this part of my history has made me even more grateful to be an Indy 500 Festival Princess,” said Townsend, an Indiana University senior majoring in economic consulting. “The neatest part to me about the Princess Program is the volunteer outreach and community involvement aspect. My family and friends have always taught me to uplift others, and the program is one of the best ways I can think of doing just that.”
Townsend said she applied to the program as a way of giving back.
“As with all of the women selected, we have been raised (in) the state of Indiana and to me, there was nothing more special than getting to give back to communities that have given me so much,” Townsend said. “In addition, after hearing about how the program developed already incredible women into stronger civic engagement leaders and networkers, I felt inspired to follow in their footsteps.”
Townsend’s passions include mental health awareness and working with children.
“I have worked with children from a young age and have been involved in mental health advocacy since my freshman year of college,” Townsend said. “These are communities that hold a special place in my heart, and I am looking forward to connecting these two passions and hope to impact the lives of our Hoosier youth.”
Todd, a junior majoring in computer science at DePauw University, is passionate about helping younger children as well.
“I want to help them be inspired to learn and be themselves,” Todd said. “I want to teach other people it’s not just about the Indy 500. It’s a platform that has enriching events for all ages.”
Todd was most looking forward to the Kids’ Day May 15, but the in-person event has been switched to virtual amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There will be online events for the kids to do with their families or their friends,” she said. “There will be more than 3,000 Kids’ Day backpacks, filled with educational items and toys given to youth-serving organizations in Marion County.”
Todd, whose 6-year-old brother attends West Clay Elementary School, said she wants to interact with elementary school students in Greencastle or Carmel in May.