The 500 Festival Princess Program celebrates Indiana’s most civic-minded and academically driven young women. For decades, exceptional female Purdue students have served as ambassadors of the 500 Festival, participating in service opportunities in their hometowns and Greater Lafayette in the lead-up to race day. In total, 33 princesses — matching the number of drivers in the Indy 500 — represent a variety of colleges and universities from across Indiana. Meet the five young Boilermakers representing Purdue as part of this year’s 500 Festival Princess Program. This story is part of a monthlong, behind-the-scenes look at Purdue’s storied history with the Indy 500.
Purdue at the Indy 500: Education major Jullianna Niebbia wants girls to dream beyond others’ expectations
I just want to tell young girls: Whatever you want to put your mind to, you can achieve it. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.
I am going to graduate with a degree in English education and a minor in sociology. However, I want to go into law enforcement. My goal is to one day be a state trooper. I always wanted to be a police officer when I was younger, but I felt like if I were to express my passion, people would just kind of laugh. So, I never really said anything until I got to Purdue. And a lot of friends were telling me, “You can do whatever you want.” You know, college is all about becoming yourself and finding yourself. And it led me to this.
I know that as a female police officer, the second I get out of that car and walk up to the car in front of me, I’m going to have to work 20 times as hard as any man. But it’s my dream.
Being a role model for younger girls as a 500 Festival princess, it just makes me so happy. But it also makes me want to tell them, “Don’t just aspire to be me — aspire to be somebody that you want to be.”
Being a role model for younger girls as a 500 Festival princess, it just makes me so happy. But it also makes me want to tell them, “Don’t just aspire to be me — aspire to be somebody that you want to be.Jullianna Niebbia
Senior, education, sociology ’22
This student spotlight is part of a special series highlighting Purdue’s many connections to the Indy 500. Thank you to Jullianna Niebbia (senior, education, sociology ’22) for sharing your story with us.
Playing a part in an Indy 500 tradition, year after year
As a member of the Purdue “All-American” Marching band, Krupa Patel enjoys coming back to the Indy 500, a tradition held for over 100 years.
Taking every opportunity to shape the future, empower others
In a world of influencers and models, you look at these people and you think, “I want to look like that.” But that’s not how it is with the 500 Festival Princess Program.
Empowering Indiana women through civic engagement
When I was in middle school choir, I was assigned to be a helper and mentor to a student with Down syndrome. I ended up getting really close with his family. I did a lot of work with the Special …
Becoming a part of Indianapolis 500 and Purdue history
I went to the Indy 500 when I was younger, but I didn’t know I was hearing the Purdue “All-American” Marching Band the whole time until I was able to be a part of it in college as a Golduster.
Seeing a community come together for race day
It’s the coolest moment when we turn the corner of the Indy 500 track, and you see all of the people in the stands lined up, and you are the first thing they’re all looking at.
Modeling community service for the next generation as a 500 Festival Princess
The 500 Festival Princess Program started out as a pageant, but there’s so much more to what it means to be a leader and a princess. I fell in love with community service my freshman year building an assistive fishing …
Combining student leadership and showmanship at the Indianapolis 500
At the Indy 500, a lot of the drum major’s role is the showmanship of it all — wearing the big, tall bear hats, leading the band through the parades, but there is also the logistics.
Building and celebrating a passion for community
Being from a small town, there’s not a whole lot of diversity. There wasn’t anybody that looked like me. I got pointed out a lot, and I just knew from a very early age I was not the same as …