Mykah Coleman is preparing for her big day as 500 Festival Queen Scholar at Indy 500 events this weekend, wanting to set an example for young people throughout the city.
The 21-year-old, who graduated from Shortridge High School in 2020, will wear the one-of-a-kind 500 Festival Queen Scholar’s crown at the Indy 500 and at 500 Festival events, including the Indianapolis 500 pre-race and Victory Circle celebrations.
“As the fourth Black queen in history of this event, I am making a huge impact not only for myself, but for my community,” Coleman said. “It is very important for Black and brown children to see people who look like them in this role. I want them to look at me and say to themselves that someday, they could make something wonderful of their lives.”
The 500 Festival announced on May 20 that Coleman had been named to the prestigious role of 2023 500 Festival Queen Scholar. The announcement was made during the 500 Festival Breakfast at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Brickyard. The event was presented by Midwestern Engineers, Inc.
Out of Body Experience
“I was sort of stunned and sort of had an out-of-body experience,” Coleman said. “Yes, I have been one of the 33 princesses for the last few months, and I thought about being named the queen, but when it happened it took me by surprise.”
As one of the 33 Indiana college-aged women selected for the 2023 500 Festival Princess Program, Coleman serves as an ambassador for the 500 Festival, her hometown, and her university.
Serving as a 500 Festival Princess provides young women with countless opportunities for leadership, networking, and professional development. As a result, IPS Superintendent Dr. Aleesia Johnson mentored Coleman.
In the months leading up to the race, the 500 Festival Princesses also perform outreach with community organizations, volunteer at 500 Festival events, and participate in various Indianapolis Motor Speedway functions.
Preparing for Life in the Classroom
Coleman attends Marian University where she is pursuing a degree in elementary education. Actively involved in the school’s Mentors for Kids, she serves as the program’s general manager. She also represents the university as a Marian Ambassador and a Klipsch Educator Ambassador.
She believes her year-long experience as 500 royalty will enhance her skills as a classroom teacher. For the last several weeks, the future educator has been educating students in Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) about the history of the Indy 500.
After graduating from college in 2024, she wants to become a teacher somewhere in the 31,000-student district.
“I think that attending Shortridge played a huge role in preparing me for college and then becoming an educator,” Coleman said. “Shortridge is an international baccalaureate school — meaning there was a lot of college prep. This not only got me ready for college but made me a well-rounded person.”
Shortridge Played a Major Role in Young Life
Not only does Coleman credit her teachers, but those same educators are embracing her as queen.
“She joined Shortridge her junior year and I had her in DP History of the Americas,” said Jenny Bielefeld, a history teacher. “Mykah has always been eager to learn and grow. One of my early memories of her was learning that she taught sign language to young students, and I was just in awe of her.
“She jumped right into the IB curriculum, and she has not stopped soaring. I’ve seen and talked with her a few times since she graduated. She still has that hunger to grow and learn. Her personality brightens every room she walks into. I feel lucky to have taught and gotten to know her. She is going to do great things.”
As the 500 Festival Queen Scholar, Coleman is the recipient of an additional $1,500 educational scholarship from the 500 Festival Foundation. She will continue to represent the 500 Festival at various functions throughout the year.