June 1, 2021 // National

Indy 500 Festival Princess stands out for her faith

With the Indy 500 in 2021’s rearview mirror, Brittany Alvarez, a third-year Driscoll Scholar at the University of Notre Dame, added her “up-to-the-bricks” experience of the race to the long list of unique things she has done: “Not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for all the cool things I’ve been able to do.”

These “things” include singing first soprano with the Indianapolis Children’s Choir in Carnegie Hall and the Cathedral of Vienna, Austria, moving ever closer to her degree in civil engineering at Notre Dame, and working with moon rocks in a professor’s office. Her most recent “cool thing”: representing Indiana as a 500 Festival Princess. 

The 500 Festival Princess Program, a highly competitive and attention-grabbing ambassadorship for the Hoosier State’s biggest attraction, accepts hundreds of applications each year. The program closely examines leadership abilities, civic engagement and academic prowess through rigorously written applications and an intense interview process, narrowing a pool of incredibly gifted and community-minded young women from triple digits to 33, one for each racer. 

Provided by Brittany Alvarez
Brittany Alvarez, who will be a civil engineering student at the University of Notre Dame this fall, was one of 33 young women for the 500 Festival Princess Program this year. She is active at St. Monica Parish and in local community service projects.

Alvarez, who applied for the first time this year after considering it for years, was thrilled to open an email from program Director Laura Bliss with an acceptance and a welcome. 

“Every day I wake up and I’m like, can someone pinch me?” Alvarez laughed. “All the other women are role models to me; I love them to pieces.”

The program has been home to numerous women in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — and business or management. Alvarez fits perfectly into these categories, but what has made her stand out within this group of high-achieving young women is her die-hard commitment to the Catholic faith. 

A cradle Catholic, Alvarez found her first true glimpse of a youthful, vibrant community of faithful in Michiana, most notably at St. Monica Parish. Its connectedness to the Mishawaka community and its young parishioners, especially through homilies and actions of pastor Father Jacob Meyer, left her alight with the glow of vibrant fellowship and whole-hearted worship. In her life, it provided and continues to provide a great foundation for her acts of service, whether it vary from knitting hats for patrons of Our Lady of the Road to leading theological discussions on peace and justice. 

No matter what, Alvarez does not stop moving in living out her faith. 

Alvarez holds up the total meal distribution board, after an outreach event with Cultivate Food Rescue.

“I like my faith in a very active form,” the princess noted, nodding to Holy Cross College and Notre Dame’s commitment to active faith as well as the required activity the program asks of her. Alvarez attended HCC for the first two years of the Driscoll Scholars program and will transfer to Notre Dame this fall.

Each princess must create or participate in four outreach events, which may be anything from speaking engagements to creating cars out of vegetables. Repeatedly, Alvarez has been reminded that the tiara of a 500 Festival princess is a megaphone, attracting attention to causes, events or people; she directed hers toward her existing passions, literacy and food accessibility.

Alvarez’ outreach events, completed within the South Bend area, included service with Cultivate Food Rescue in preparing and distributing a weekend’s worth of healthy meals for families struggling with food insecurity and collecting several hundred covers for the Center for Civic Innovation’s literacy collection. She was regularly involved in both organizations as a student prior to her time as a princess, but now that her tiara that magnifies all, Alvarez has recently met with great success in her endeavors. 

“Knowing that I don’t even live here [full-time] and to get to give back, especially to kids – that was what made me feel like a princess. Not the tiara,” she said.

Even as Race Week concludes and her duties as a princess draw to a close, Alvarez has no intention to stop living her active faith. In her time at Holy Cross College , she was and continues to be an active participant in Campus Ministry-sponsored programs as an intern and as an attending faithful. Her favorite spiritual experience is praying the “Lucinarium,” a Liturgy of the Word-modeled prayer service with a focus on the charism of fraternity from the Congregation of the Holy Cross. 

Alvarez was quick to mention how enjoyable the themed fellowship nights that follow the prayer are as well. “It’s a quiet, contemplative moment and then fellowship activity. A nice pause and a great refresher.”

As the engineer-in-training looks forward, graduate school is on her horizon — as is work for NASA or as an eco-friendly Disney Imagineer, she hopes, developing sustainable alternatives to park transport and general upkeep. 

Regardless of where the future might take her, Alvarez looks forward to spending her remaining academic years in northern Indiana, finding new ways to engage the community and act as Christ to others. 

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