INDIANAPOLIS — Two northeast Indiana women have been selected as 2020 500 Festival Princesses.

The 500 Festival is a nonprofit organization that provides events and programs that celebrate the legacy of the Indianapolis 500.

Kirstin Comment of Hamilton and Madison Herschberger of St. Joe will serve as Festival Princesses.

Comment is a graduate of Hamilton High School and a junior at Indiana State University majoring in communications (public relations). Herschberger is a graduate of Eastside High School and a senior at Indiana University majoring in biochemistry and biology.

Serving as a 500 Festival Princess provides young women with opportunities for leadership and professional development. The 500 Festival Princesses will participate in the 500 Festival Leadership Development Program, which empowers participants to make a profound impact within their community and Indiana.

Since the program’s launch, more than 2,000 Indiana women have served as a 500 Festival Princesses. The 2020 500 Festival Princesses represent 14 Indiana colleges and universities and 22 cities and towns across the state. With a cumulative grade-point average of 3.64, 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.

The 500 Festival Princesses are selected throughout a competitive process consisting of a written application and two rounds of interviews. The 2020 500 Festival Princesses represent a diverse group of women with 26 different fields of study ranging from education to software engineering to journalism to biochemistry.

In 2015, the 500 Festival added a $1,000 scholarship for each Princess selected to the program, made possible by the 500 Festival Foundation and Marlyne Sexton, an Indianapolis philanthropist and president of the Sexton Companies.

Prior to 2015, only the Princess selected as the 500 Festival Queen Scholar received a scholarship. Sexton recently made a commitment to the 500 Festival and 500 Festival Foundation to build a fund that ensures that scholarships for all 33 women selected as a 500 Festival Princess will be covered in perpetuity. To thank Sexton for her generosity and support of the Princess Program, the 500 Festival Queen Scholar award will now be named in her honor.

“Marlyne Sexton has made a generous commitment to help us build a fund to ensure the scholarships are covered in perpetuity,” said Bob Bryant, 500 Festival president and CEO. “The Queen Scholar award will henceforth be named The Marlyne Sexton 500 Festival Queen Scholar Award in recognition of her contribution to Indiana women.”

From February through May, 500 Festival Princesses complete 30 hours of leadership development including: sessions led by business and community leaders, professional development events and mentorship from 500 Festival Board of Directors.

500 Festival Princesses are also provided with experiences, including involvement with the 500 Festival’s statewide community outreach programs, volunteering at 500 Festival events and participating in various Indianapolis Motor Speedway functions, including the pre-race ceremonies and Victory Circle celebration for the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500.

500 Festival Princesses participate in a statewide outreach program, which educates Hoosiers about the history and legacy of the Indianapolis 500, the 500 Festival, and its various events and programs.

“The 500 Festival Princess Program, presented by Reis-Nichols Jewelers, gives young women an opportunity to grow their leadership abilities and professional development. The program ensures each participant an empowering experience with opportunities to make a profound impact on their community and state,” said Kathy Cabello, 500 Festival board member and Princess Program committee co-chair. “The board of directors is honored to join the 500 Festival in celebrating these remarkable current and future leaders.”

The 2020 Marlyne Sexton 500 Festival Queen Scholar will be announced on Saturday, May 16, during the 500 Festival Breakfast at the Brickyard. The 500 Festival Queen Scholar will receive an additional $1,500 scholarship.

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