KOKOMO, Ind. —Alexis Nash will be in the spotlight during this year’s Indianapolis 500 Festival, as one of the top collegiate women in the state.
A senior at Indiana University Kokomo, she was chosen for the queen’s court, as the first runner-up in the 500 Festival Princess Program.
“I am very surprised, and humbled, and flattered,” said Nash. “The queen and her court, according to the judges, have the qualities they feel best represent the 500 festival and the princess program.”
The 500 Festival Queen and two court members are chosen from the 33 princesses, who are selected in February through an application and interview process. Nearly 300 women applied for the program.
Nash used skills she’s learned as a communication arts major to garner her recognition. Each princess had to answer an impromptu question, and hers was about her recent trip to China with her cross-cultural communications class, and why she values overseas travel.
“I said that I’ve learned about different countries through textbooks and at school, but having a hands-on experience and being able to spend time with people who are so incredibly different from me is eye-opening,” Nash said. “I came back with tools I can use to better my community.”
She’s already used her crown as a key to volunteer in her community, opening doors she can use to give back to her community and empower young women like herself.
“Being a 500 Festival Princess means I have a responsibility to set a positive example for the next generation of young women,” she said. “The program celebrates Indiana’s most driven, civic-minded women, and I am honored that the leaders in our state perceive me in that light.”
She believes the example she sets is one of persistence, and seeking the place where she could grow and succeed.
As a student at North Central High School, in Indianapolis, “I had low self-esteem, and it kept me from applying to my studies,” she said. “This shows you don’t have to be perfect to become an excellent person, and achieve.”
Her high school experience left her unsure of her ability to succeed in college. Once she visited IU Kokomo, she knew she had found a campus where she could thrive. She has served as editor of The Correspondent student newspaper, and is a Student Government Association senator.
“I’ve loved the leadership opportunities I’ve had, that I might not have had on a bigger campus,” she said. “I would love to go back and do a program at my elementary school, and show what is possible with hard work and persistence, and by believing in yourself. It would almost be like facing down those self-esteem issues.”
She’s also proud to represent Indiana’s immigrant population, as the granddaughter of Greek immigrants. In fact, she admits to crying during her interview, when talking about how proud she is of her grandmother, who escaped Nazi occupied Europe.
“Most of the world thinks of Indiana and the Midwest as only all American pie with no culture behind it,” she said. “Growing up in a Greek family, I have learned that there are many subcultures that exist in our state. My heritage is an integral part of my identity and self-concept. The 500 Festival serves all demographics, and is all-inclusive. My heritage helps me be successful and relatable in my role as a princess.”
Nash planned several community outreach programs as a princess, including at Pipe Creek Elementary School, Peru; and Nora Elementary School, Indianapolis. She also met with Girl Scout Troop 560 in Greentown, and worked with two other princesses to host a craft day at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital.
Nash decided to apply for the program after her fellow IU Kokomo students Brittany Royer and Danika Smith were princesses in 2014. The skills she gained practicing for her interview will benefit her when she graduates in December 2015, and begins looking for a public relations and marketing job.
“The 500 Festival Princess Program focuses on empowering you and preparing you for the career field,” she said.
As 500 Festival princesses, Nash will participate in community outreaches, ride a ceremonial lap around the track prior to the race, kiss the bricks, ride a float during the Festival Parade, and stand on the red carpet of the Key Bank 500 Festival Snakepit Ball. As a princess, she received a $1,000 scholarship, which she used for her trip to China.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.