500 Festival program helps Princess develop leadership skills


One of the main purposes of the 500 Festival Princess program is to help the Princesses learn leadership skills.

AA COM 0328 500 Fest program Bliss photo

Laura Bliss, vice president of operations for the 500 Festival, oversees the leadership development program for the Princesses.

Bliss said all the festival interns and Princesses participate in the program.

“We’re just hoping to expose them to professional and personal development opportunities through those leadership development program sessions,” Bliss said. “So, throughout their time with us, they get a variety of different events or networking opportunities in order to further their professional skills.”

The interns started the first week in January and are with the 500 Festival until the start of June. Bliss said there is a different curriculum for the 12 interns than the Princesses. The Princesses started the leadership development program in late February. The program runs throughout the month of May.

“It’s a cool opportunity for them to be exposed to some of those really successful career people around the Indianapolis area,” Bliss said. “If somebody is studying biology or premed track, we have hospital board members who we pair them up with. Somebody who’s studying finance, we have some bankers who will be a natural fit for that as well.”

Bliss said there are several learning sessions that Princesses and interns are able to attend. For instance, the National Bank of Indianapolis held a session about building their financial futures.

“They talked about credit scores and how, as young professionals, they can set themselves up for success down the line from a financial standpoint,” Bliss said.

Bliss said there is a series with the Simon Property Group about women in business which involves several speakers where Princesses can learn about different career paths.

There also are 500 Festival corporate members events.

“The Princesses can network with all the professionals that are at those events,” Bliss said. “We try and cast a wide net with what the opportunities are for Princesses. They have such diverse backgrounds and future career opportunities.”

AA COM 0328 500 Festival program Worcester pic

Each Princess is paired with one of the board members from the 500 Festival to serve as their mentor. There are 33 Princesses and 33 board members.

Butler University sophomore Grace Worcester, a Guerin Catholic High School graduate from Westfield, is looking forward to the Women in Business Brunch, which is scheduled for April 5.

“I’m excited to hear from (Simon Property Group’s) Rachel Segars, especially,” Worcester said. “I am in a male-dominated major and feel as though I can really relate to her being the only female in her sales field. I also am excited to hear from the other influencers like Lauren Schneider and Carrie Abbott.”

AA COM 0328 500 Festival program Bowers pic

Worcester’s mentor is Roger VanderSnick, chief sales and marketing officer for the Indianapolis Colts.

Purdue University senior Ryan Bowers, a Zionsville Community High School graduate who is majoring in pre-medicine, said she is looking forward to the IndyHub panel in the development series.

“I am looking forward to learning from Indy professionals on how to be a successful leader both in the workplace and outside of it,” she said. “I am so grateful that this leadership development series is a part of the Princess program.”

Bowers is working with Scott Bove, regional president for STAR Financial Bank.

AA COM 0328 500 Festival program Romero De Gante pic
Romero De Gante

“Scott is a fellow Boilermaker and it’s also his first year on the board,” Bowers said. “We are hoping to work together to plan some fun and impactful outreach events for Hoosier communities to share the spirit of the 500 Festival.”

IUPUI junior Hannah Romero De Gante, from Seymour, is eager to hear from the IndyHub panel as well.

“This session is all about leadership and the importance of empowering and emboldening young leaders like us,” she said. “I am really excited to learn from several Indy change-makers as they describe opportunities that the Circle City has given them and why they continue to call Indy home.”