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First-Gen Student Blanca Osorio Ortega ‘23 (International Relations, Political Science) Gives Back to Community as 500 Festival Princess

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Each year, the 500 Festival Princess Program, presented by the National Bank of Indianapolis, selects 33 of Indiana’s most civic-minded, academically driven young women to serve as ambassadors of the 500 Festival, their hometowns, and their colleges/universities. 

This year the University of Indianapolis is proud to have two students selected to serve as princesses, including Blanca Osorio Ortega ‘23 (International Relations, Political Science). 

Blanca is a first-generation student and aims to make the most of her college experience. This has pushed her to take on not only a double major and double minor – in Communications and Franco-German Studies – but also to stay active on-campus and in the community. 

“The biggest reason why I like to get involved on campus and off campus activities is because being able to attend college was a milestone for my entire family and I want to take full advantage of what UIndy has to offer,” said Blanca. “I’m the first one to attend college and I truly want to make my family proud, especially my mother who has supported me in the clubs I’ve joined and the volunteer trips abroad I have gone to.”

Deciding where to attend college is a big decision and, at first, Blanca wasn’t sure if UIndy was the right fit for her. Fortunately, she decided to give it a chance and found that this is where she belonged. 

“In the beginning, it was so different. I didn’t have any friends in the beginning of freshman year, which is so unlike me,” said Blanca. “I found myself wanting to get involved and do things on campus, but I was just so shy. It was my first year and I was trying so hard to see what kinds of things I wanted to be a part of. I observed what everyone did, what everyone was a part of. That’s when I started to kind of get to know my professors and then towards my sophomore year was the start of, ‘okay, I think I like this college.’ Definitely my faculty members played a huge part in me getting involved in campus and getting insight into what is to come after college.”

One influential faculty member who has helped Blanca feel at home at UIndy is Dr. Laura Merrifield Wilson, associate professor of political science.

“I remember meeting with Blanca early on in her college career and giving her advice and ideas about what she could do and what path she might take to get there,” said Dr. Wilson. “It is exciting to see her make her mark in the world because she always had that potential. I think by mentoring her and helping her identify her passions, strengths, and assets, we were able to give her a better understanding of how she could reach her goals, both as a student but also after graduation.”

As a Resident Assistant for East Hall, Blanca has seen other students struggle with the same feeling of loneliness and uncertainty. 

“My biggest advice would be that it’s okay to not know what the next three years are going to look like,” she advised. “Just keep trying and seeing what is available on campus. Something will stick. You will find passion, whether it’s being on a board or joining a club or maybe starting your own club. There is something for you on campus. You just have to go and find it.”

Trying new things on campus is what led Blanca to the 500 Festival Princess Program. Last year, she heard about a Zoom panel being hosted by a former princess who was also a UIndy political science student. Blanca decided to attend to hear why a political science student would join such a program, as well as to earn L/P credit. 

“I was really interested when she mentioned that it’s not a beauty pageant. It’s about being academically-driven and being involved in your community,” said Blanca. “From a young age, I’ve been involved in my community. I was a part of so many things in high school like the Mayor’s Youth Council, planning things out for the city, as well as just volunteering for fun. Once I heard that it was just a program to help college students gain leadership skills and gain better insight into serving your community, I was like, ‘I want to do that.’”’

Through the program, Blanca has the opportunity to give back to her community through events like classroom visits and the 500 Festival running events. Additionally, Blanca is gaining vital networking and leadership skills through the Leadership Development Program. These skills will help Blanca as she considers life after graduation. For now, she’s keeping her career options open.

“I’m open to anything. My professors have done a good job in letting me know that as long as I have this degree, there are so many doors open to me,” she said. “And if you don’t hit that one ‘dream’ job, it’s not make it or break it. You just have to work for it.”

Wherever Blanca’s journey takes her, she will surely be a strong community leader and inspiration to the next generation of college students and 500 Festival princesses.