By Todd Travis
A passion for education
Being selected as one of this year’s Indy 500 Festival princesses has given Blanca Osorio-Ortega a platform to share her story and to serve her community. One important area that is close to Osorio-Ortega’s heart is education. As a first-generation Mexican American, she has heard firsthand how her mother struggled in Mexico without access to education. “I just found it really sad,” said Osorio-Ortega. “Being in the United States, I can attend school. It’s something that children need. They need a place to make friends and get an education and be inspired, not just from their parents but from the educators as well,” she continued. Osorio-Ortega has a deep appreciation for all of her teachers and the Greenwood school system. “There are teachers that have spoken life over me and given me really awesome advice. Greenwood schools have great teachers, and I know that they really care about their students,” she added. As part of the 500 Princess Program, she was able to go back and visit her elementary school and see many of the teachers that she admired as a young girl.
Growing up in Greenwood, Osorio-Ortega enjoyed all of the benefits the town has to offer. Besides the great education she received, she also appreciated the outdoor events, libraries and parks, and the welcoming community feel that she experienced. She served on the student council in high school and enjoyed planning homecoming, spirit week and other school events. She loved to read and always participated in summer reading programs. Her favorite book is “Mister and Me” which tells the story of a young girl who looks up to her teacher. “It really resonates with me because I love all the past teachers I’ve had. I’ve always had a really good bond with them,” Osorio-Ortega mentioned. She is now attending the University of Indianapolis where she double majors in political science and international relations with a minor in communications. She also writes for the school paper called “The Reflector.”
While she enjoyed all the opportunities that growing up in Greenwood offered, Osorio-Ortega also experienced some hardships which have inspired her to want to help others and make a difference in her community. One thing that influenced her was seeing the difficulties her mother experienced as a single mom. “That was really hard starting off because as a young child, I really saw her struggle. It really affected me and made me want to do better for my future family but also with my mom and siblings,” Osorio-Ortega said. “I also want my mom to know that the sacrifices she made were not going to go unnoticed and I appreciate everything she’s done.” She also noticed from a young age that many of the other students were in a better economic position. Rather than becoming bitter, she looked for the silver lining in her situation. “In a way, it helped me get comfortable when I walk into a room. There are differences, but I can look past that and try to get to know people on a personal level,” she explained. “At the end of the day I think people appreciate when you talk to them and want to get to know them.”
Indy 500 Festival Princess Program, presented by The National Bank of Indianapolis
Osorio-Ortega’s attitude and approach to life have made her a perfect choice to be an Indy 500 princess. The Indy 500 Festival Princess Program, presented by The National Bank of Indianapolis, celebrates Indiana’s most civic-minded, academically driven young women. She heard about the program through a friend who is a former princess. While on a zoom call to support her friend, she was surprised to hear about the many benefits the program provided. “When I heard that it was about going out and doing outreaches and being part of the community rather than just being a pageant, I started to become interested in the program,” Osorio-Ortega recalled. “The fact that it was about bringing in your education and background, becoming a leader and representing your school the Indy 500 really resonated with me. As a young girl, everyone wants to be successful, but I think it starts with being authentic and helping your community, and I think this program does a great job of that,” she continued. Osorio-Ortega and the other princesses will conduct more than 1,500 community outreaches impacting more than 50,000 people, expanding the celebration and impact of the Indianapolis 500 in a meaningful way.
Big plans for the future
Osorio-Ortega plans to take this experience and learn as much as possible as she plans her future. One of her goals is to eventually become governor of Indiana. “I love Indiana. I love the idea that you can become part of communities around the state and bring a vision to life that will make Indiana become even stronger than it already is,” she said. “We are very diverse. I have had the opportunity to meet people from so many various backgrounds because of UIndy’s international programs. While Osorio-Ortega prepares to run for office, she plans to spend time overseas and working for nonprofits. “Once I graduate, my doors really open so much. My whole life I’ve been planning to do all these things and now that I’m graduating, I feel that I can finally do them,” she said.
For more information about Blanca and the 500 Princess Program visit 500festival.com/college-programs/princess-program/overview/