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IUPUI graduate named 2022 500 Queen Scholar

Melissa Aceves of Columbus just earned a degree in community health.

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — A Columbus woman who recently graduated from IUPUI was named by the 500 Festival as the 2022 Marlyne Sexton 500 Festival Queen Scholar.

Melissa Aceves earned a degree in community health. She was selected to serve as queen from the field of 33 Indiana college-aged women in this year's 500 Festival Princess Program.

The queen and princesses serve as ambassadors for the 500 Festival, their hometowns, and their schools, volunteering at various festival events through the month of May.

Aceves, who graduated from Columbus North High School, was actively involved in the Undergraduate Student Government and the Chancellor's Student Advisory Board in college.

She also served on the Alliance for Immigrant Justice, where she was involved in community service, cultural awareness, and education. 

Credit: 500 Festival
Melissa Aceves of Columbus, Ind. was named the 2022 Marlyne Sexton 500 Festival Queen Scholar on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

Aceves lost her father three years ago and carries his legacy in her role as queen. 

"The day of orientation was my dad's third anniversary since his death," she said. "But there wasn't anywhere else I wanted to be. I felt like I honored my dad by spending the day learning about the opportunities to make an impact on the lives of our community.” 

“More than three times a week, I get the opportunity to watch the sky rise or set coming from a Princess Program event,” said Aceves. “As I gaze at the sunset/sunrise, the many colors fill my heart with warmth, happiness, and grief."

While serving as a princess, Aceves went to Brookes Place and visited teenagers and children who lost their parents, siblings, or grandparents. 

"I promised the children at Brookes Place that I would apply to be the Marlyne Sexton 500 Festival Queen Scholar. A key message I have learned and will take to my life is that although being vulnerable is difficult, that is how we can connect and transform our pain into hope and love for our community," she said.

As Queen Scholar, Aceves receives a $1,500 educational scholarship from the 500 Festival Foundation. Each 500 Festival Princess receives a $1,000 scholarship, made possible by Marlyne Sexton, an Indianapolis philanthropist and president of The Sexton Companies, and the 500 Festival Foundation. 

The 2022 500 Festival Princesses hold a cumulative grade point average of 3.62 at 15 Indiana colleges and universities. They hail from 22 cities and towns across the state. 

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