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Justine Weatherman is more than an Indianapolis 500 princess

Justine Weatherman is more than an Indianapolis 500 princess

Justine Weatherman, 23, of Clayton is one of 33 Indianapolis 500 Festival princesses. While that is a major accomplishment, she has achieved an even greater feat – one that will continue to challenge her the rest of her life.

Justine Weatherman waving at crowd during the Indianapolis St. Patrick’s Day parade.

The Purdue University Masters of Business Administration (MBA) student has a genetic disorder called Stargardt disease, or juvenile macular degeneration – an eye condition that causes progressive vision loss to the center of her eyes. In Justine’s case, she cannot see items in front of her but can see through the side of her eyes, or peripherally.

“I am going to make sure it doesn’t impact what I do. I want to be involved. You just cannot not live your life,” Justine said she told herself in seventh grade when Stargardt was diagnosed. She also attributes the support of her dad Shannon, mom Margaret and her older sister Jessica to her determination.

She also credits the note-takers, assisted technology, her Purdue mentors, and knowing what her limits are. Transportation can be difficult, she said, because she cannot drive. However, she tries to find places where she can walk.

And she certainly is living her life. She has earned her bachelor’s degree in economics from Purdue; completed two college internships at The Boeing Company in Philadelphia, PA, and Charleston, SC; and upon her May graduation, will be moving to Melbourne, FL, where she will work in the aerospace system division’s supply chain rotational program at Northrop Grumman, an aerospace and defense company.

Justine was fortunate to attend the national Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities Summit during her sophomore year at Purdue and then, as a student ambassador, she attended the Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities Conference during her graduate studies. It was during these events she made her career connections.

Justine also swam on the Cascade High School and Mill Creek Community swim teams, the latter of which she continues to assist in the summer. That and her involvement with Purdue’s Krannert Graduate Student Association and Purdue’s Disability Resource Center’s mentor program, and as a graduate assistant for the Entrepreneur Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities led to her selection as a festival princess. Community involvement, communications skills and academic performance are among the selection criteria.

Justine, during her senior year at Cascade, was chosen as the Plainfield Optimist Club’s representative to the Distinguished Young Woman state scholarship program. It was there that she met other young ladies with whom she kept in contact and later learned that they, including Bonnie England of Tri-West Hendricks High School, had become Indianapolis 500 Festival princesses. After completing an online application and two interview rounds, Justine now finds herself joining them.

“I love Indiana, and I love my hometown and Indianapolis,” she said as reasons for her involvement. “I am looking forward to being able to have a unique role in the 500 Festival and with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” she added.

The fun and responsibilities are just beginning. So far, Justine and the 32 other princesses have toured the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, participated in Flashes for Hope which benefits children with cancer, and handed out Indianapolis Motor Speedway key chains at an Indiana Pacers’ game.

In May, she will participate in 500 Festival-related programs she has organized or is assisting with: 500 Festival-related presentations to high school mass media classes, Mill Creek Community Swim Team’s Indianapolis 500-themed relay race night; and a ribbon cutting at Walking for Dreams, benefitting organizations such as the Indiana Blind Children’s Foundation, which is affiliated with the Indiana School for the Blind.

And that’s just the beginning. Justine is especially looking forward to the 500 Festival’s Kids’ Day on May 13, state-wide outreach projects, and, of course, the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade and the Indianapolis 500 Race.

“I am excited about the events in my community. We have a lot of cool stuff in May, and I get to do the events with 32 other amazing women from other colleges and communities throughout the state,” Justine said.

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